Ethics, god, idealism, national identity, the elusiveness of faith. How we shape our mythos and our romantic notions. With a virtuosic command of gesture, language, and song, writer, composer, librettist, musician, performer, and director, total theatre artist Rinde Eckert moves beyond the boundariesof what a 'play,' a 'dance piece,' an 'opera' or 'musical' might be, in the service of grappling with complex issues. Eckert makes solo work, chamber pieces, and through-composed operas with larger casts, and has long collaborated with other art makers including choreographer Margaret Jenkins, composers Steven Mackey and Paul Dresher, directors Robert Woodruff and David Schweizer, and the new music ensemble, Eighth Blackbird. Building a link between ideas and people, as between theatre and science, he's even bringing together a university drama department and medical school. Thinkers and writers, including W.B. Yeats, Dante, Homer, and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, frequently inspire Eckert's musical and literary motifs. Studying Melville's Moby Dick led to his best-known work, And God Created Great Whales. And who peoples his work? A composer trying to write an opera while losing his memory. A man who commits suicide sailing solo around the world. A Mafia accountant with a change of heart. Eckert describes many of his characters as "little men with big ideas whose consequences of their hubris are often disastrous." Sometimes tragic and austere, sometimes broadly comedic, entirely grounded by presence, Eckert's work is alchemical: moving from rumination and distillation to hard-won illumination, or its lack.

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Born 1951, Mankato, MN
Lives in Nyack, NY

Rinde Eckert, the 2009 recipient of The Alpert Award in the Arts for his contributions to Theatre and finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Drama, is a writer, composer, performer and director. His Opera / New Music Theatre productions have toured throughout America, and to major festivals in Europe and Asia.

Eckert’s career began as a writer/performer in the 1980’s, writing librettos for Paul Dresher (Pioneer, Power Failure, Slow Fire, Ravenshead).  Working subsequently with choreographers Margaret Jenkins and Sarah Shelton Mann, he began composing dance scores, including the evening-length Woman, Window, Square for The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. Eckert began composing and performing his own music/theater pieces with The Gardening of Thomas D, his 1992 homage to Dante which was performed on tour in the United States and France. His staged works for solo performer include An Idiot Divine, Romeo Sierra Tango and Quit This House. He wrote Shoot the Moving Things and Four Songs Lost in a Wall for radio. Rinde Eckert’s recent writing credits include Horizon (2007-08 Drama Desk Nominations: Best Play and Best Director, Lucille Lortel Award: "Unique Theatrical Experience"); Orpheus X (Pulitzer Prize nomination); Highway Ulysses and Four Songs Lost in a Wall (The American Academy of Arts and Letters 2005 Marc Blitzstein Award); And God Created Great Whales (OBIE Award: Best Performance, Drama Desk Nomination: "Unique Theatrical Experience"); and the two, one-act plays An Idiot Divine.

His work for the theater has been produced by American Repertory Theatre, The Foundry Theatre, Culture Project, Center Stage in Baltimore, Dobama Theatre Company and Berkeley Repertory Theater. Tony Taccone, Robert Woodruff, David Schweizer, Richard ET White and Ellen McLaughlin have directed his plays. Rinde Eckert has directed his own and others’ plays and operas for The Asia Society, Juggernaut Theater, Opera Piccola and the Paul Dresher Ensemble.

Current writing and directing projects include: The Schick Machine with virtuoso percussionist Steven Schick in a solo-theater work composed/produced by Paul Dresher; Slide with composer/guitarist Steven Mackey and eighth blackbird debuts in June 2009 at the Ojai Festival and will tour nationally in 2010; and Imaginary City with So Percussion debuts in Fall 2009 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Previous new music collaborations include Sound Stage for the ensemble Zeitgeist, and Steven Mackey’s oratorio Dream House. Mackey and Eckert are members of BIG FARM, the 4-person ‘prog-rock’ band. Rinde Eckert’s uniquely eclectic music is available on the Intuition label in Germany and through Songline/Tonefield Productions. The critically acclaimed Sandhills Reunion (music by Jerry Granelli, text by Eckert) was released in 2005. Following his success teaching a course in creativity at Princeton University in 2007, Eckert begins a 3-year residency in Spring 2009. He was the 2008 Granada Artist-in-Residence at the University of California at Davis Department of Theater and Dance where he wrote and directed Fate and Spinoza, and is currently in partnership with the University of Iowa to create, direct and perform in Eye Piece, a play exploring the loss of vision.  Rinde Eckert lives in New York with his wife, Ellen McLaughlin, the playwright and actress.

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