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RINDE ECKERT is a writer, composer, librettist, musician, performer and director.

His Opera / New Music Theatre productions have toured throughout America and to major theater festivals in Europe and Asia. With a virtuosic command of gesture, language and song, this total theatre artist moves beyond the boundaries of what a 'play,' a 'dance piece,' an 'opera' or 'musical' might be, in the service of grappling with complex issues. 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, his work is alchemical: moving from rumination and distillation to hard-won illumination, or its lack.

Rinde Eckert began his career as a writer and performer

in the 1980’s, writing librettos for Paul Dresher (Pioneer, Power Failure, Slow Fire, Ravenshead). He composed dance scores for choreographers Sarah Shelton Mann and Margaret Jenkins, including the evening-length Woman, Window, Square for The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company.

Rinde began composing and performing his own music/theater works in 1992 with The Gardening of Thomas D, an homage to Dante which subsequently toured the United States and France. Staged works for solo performer include Becoming…Unusual: The Education of an Eclectic; three one-act plays: An Idiot Divine, Romeo Sierra Tango and Quit This House; and works for radio including Shoot the Moving Things and Four Songs Lost in a Wall.

...he finds vivifying parallels between the theological quest of one man and the theatrical quest to capture and illuminate life.
— Ben Brantley, on "Horizon," in The New York Times


Award Highlights

  • Was named an inaugural Doris Duke Artist in 2012
  • Won a Grammy for Best Small Ensemble Performance as a collaborator on the album Lonely Motel on Cedille Records in 2011
  • Was finalist for Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2007

Writing credits for the theater include

Highway Ulysses, Horizon, Orpheus X, And God Created Great Whales, which has been produced three times with the original cast and director, for a total of 227 performances. And God Created Great Whales, Horizon and Orpheus X have run off-Broadway, garnering Drama Desk Nominations and the Lucille Lortel Award.

Rinde has received numerous honors and awards

for his body of work. In 2012 he was named an inaugural Doris Duke Artist, was honored to receive the 2009 Alpert Award in the Arts for Theatre, a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship, and The American Academy of Arts and Letters 2005 Marc Blitzstein Award. In 2007 Rinde Eckert was the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

Eckert’s work has been produced

in New York by the Foundry Theatre, Culture Project, Theater for a New Audience and the New York Theatre Workshop. American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Center Stage in Baltimore, Cleveland’s Dobama Theatre Company, REDCAT in Los Angeles at the Roy& Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, and Berkeley Repertory Theater have also produced his work. Directors have included Tony Taccone, Robert Woodruff, David Schweizer, Richard ET White and Ellen McLaughlin.  Rinde Eckert has directed for The Asia Society, Juggernaut Theater, Opera Piccola and the Paul Dresher Ensemble. In 2013 he directed a remounting of Eye Piece for Barnard College students, and directed the two operas Theotokia and The War Reporter by Jonathan Berger and Dan O’Brien for Stanford Live.

Writing and directing new music projects have included

I Have Stopped the Clocks for Roomful of Teeth; the critically acclaimed CD Sandhills Reunion (music by Jerry Granelli, text by Eckert); The Schick Machine a solo-theater work for percussionist Steven Schick composed/produced by Paul Dresher; Imaginary City with So Percussion; Sound Stage for the ensemble Zeitgeist; Gurs Zyklus, a new music/performance/multi-media installation and collaboration with sound sculptor Trimpin; and Steven Mackey’s oratorio Dream House. Conducted by Gil Rose with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the recording received three 2010 Grammy Nominations: Best Classical Album, Best Orchestral Performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical. In 2014 Rinde performed Dream House with the New York Philharmonic.

Eckert wrote the text and performed in the multi-media production Slide with composer/guitarist Mackey and the new music ensemble 8th blackbird, which toured to major university campuses and the Ojai Festival. Renamed Lonely Motel by Cedille Records, the project won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Eckert and Mackey are members of BIG FARM, a ‘prog-rock’ super group with drummer Jason Treuting (So Percussion) and bassist Mark Haanstra. Rinde Eckert’s own uniquely eclectic music is released on Germany’s Intuition label and through Songline/Tonefield Productions.  Writer/performer Eckert and composer/performer Ned Rothenberg expanded Five Beasts into a full-evening work during a 2-week residency at Les Subsistances, the Laboratoire international de création artistique in Lyon, France in March 2015. Imagining how animals might perceive human beings, Eckert brings the conceit to life with an array of unconventional sounds and gestures. Rinde Eckert curated an 8-concert series at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust during 2016 and presented Five Beasts, Sandhills Reunion and other works. Five Beasts will tour 2017-2018.

In February 2017 Rinde Eckert makes his Kennedy Center recital debut as part of Renee Fleming’s inaugural VOICES Series.

A Beth Morrison Production, the new music-theatre work Aging Magician uses a composite of sonic and visual elements to guide a man entering his final stages of life to the fantastical world of Coney Island. Composed by Paola Prestini with libretto by Rinde Eckert, design and direction by Julian Crouch, instrument design by Mark Stewart, and projection design by S. Katy Tucker, Aging Magician combines music, theatre, puppetry, instrument making, and scenic design to create an enduring work for the stage.  Performances have been at Mass MOCA, the Walker Arts Center and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois. The productions goes to Arizona State University in February 2017 and runs for two weeks at New York City’s New Victory Theater in March.

The Kronos Quartet’s production of composer Jonathan Berger’s monodrama My Lai was written for singer-actor Rinde Eckert, master Vietnamese musician Van Ahn Vo and the Kronos Quartet. The work debuted at Stanford University and the Harris Theater in Chicago in 2015-2016.

Rinde has taught

graduate students from the English Department and School of Music at Princeton University since 2007. His extensive writing and directing residencies began at the University of Nebraska where he created Horizon; the University of California at Davis Department of Theater and Dance to write and direct Fate and Spinoza; in partnership with Hancher and the University of Iowa to create, write, direct and perform in Eye Piece, a play exploring the loss of vision which Rinde again directed for Barnard College students in March 2013; and at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts to create, write and direct theater students in The Last Days of the Old Wild Boy.  

He led a 2-week teaching residency with the Departments of Theater and Dance at Towson University during spring 2015 and is currently co-teaching a course on creativity with Paul Dresher at the University of South Maine.

Rinde Eckert lives in New York with his wife Ellen McLaughlin, the playwright and actor.

Updated June 2016                           

Banner photo credit: Eva Mueller


Teaching Experience:

  • Princeton University - Visiting Lecturer, Spring Semester 2009-2014
  • Princeton University Music Dept. – Graduate Seminar
  • Princeton University Atelier – with Steven Mackey
  • University of California, Davis Dept. of Theater and Dance – Grenada Artist in Residence
  • University of Iowa Drama School – Partnership in the Arts – Artist in Residence
  • Plus, numerous workshops at Major Universities across the United States


In Rinde's words...

"I have been trying to build a theatrical logic that is fiercely interdisciplinary - a theatre that accepts various modalities of meaning and feeling without subordinating one to the other.
My work occurs on stage with lights and sound, and usually music, and is deeply concerned with language. Using various theatrical forms to say what I have to say, I am interested more in poetic gestalt than in narrative, though there is usually a central narrative that I treat as a kind of fugue subject or governing metaphor. I need to feel I'm learning with each new project, and that each work is a piece of a much larger puzzle.
I think I do my best work in an atmosphere of joy and critical thought, in that order. There is such a thing as soul and good theatre elevates it."

I wrote the above years ago.  It still seems true.

I’d add that I’ve grown to appreciate being lost, what a remarkable gift it is to be able to work in this way, not knowing quite where I’m going, trusting the wisdom of my colleagues and the skills I’ve worked to improve little by little.

I’ve grown to appreciate how difficult it is to achieve artful simplicity, that it’s not often quiet and uncomplicated.

I’ve become no less fond of the human comedy in all its bizarre and subtle manifestations. I’ve grown to value compassion, although it’s not a natural talent of mine.  I hope I’m less self-righteous than I pretend to be.  I’m attracted to deep irony, a fundamentally hot work. Cool irony just doesn’t seem dangerous enough.  

This is to say that my art is part of a larger ambition to come to terms with life, to be wise.

My influences are highly eclectic, my aesthetics, cosmopolitan, my methods, pragmatic.  

My loves are many.  You know who you are.
- Rinde (2015)

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Inaugural Doris Duke Artists
awarded an unrestricted, multi-year cash grant


Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance
for  album Lonely Motel, Cedille Records


Three Grammy nominations for album Dream House
Best Classical Album | Best Orchestral Performance | Best Engineered Album, Classical
directed by Gil Rose


Alpert Award in the Arts, Theatre


Drama Desk Award Nomination – Best Play (Horizon)
Lucille Lortel Award - "Unique Theatrical Experience” (Horizon)


Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama (Orpheus X)
Guggenheim Fellowship, Music Composition


American Academy of Arts & Letters: Marc Blitzstein Award
         (Four Songs Lost in a Wall and Highway Ulysses)


Meet the Composer Award
to compose / write a new play for American Repertory Theatre


Eliot Norton Award, Boston
Best Production by a Large Resident Company (Highway Ulysses)
American Repertory Theatre


Drama Desk Award Nomination (And God Created Great Whales)
Obie Award (And God Created Great Whales)


Drama Desk Award Nomination
Sound Design, CSC (Therese Raquin)


Isadora Duncan Award, Best Text and Music Score (Dry Land Divine)
The Esquire Register Arts and Letters Award, Esquire Magazine


Isadora Duncan Award, Best Text and Music Score (Shelf Life)
Critics Circle Award-Best Solo Performance (Slow Fire)
Academy Of Theatre Artists and Friends, Chicago-Best Production (Not For Real)


Critics Circle Award, San Francisco - Best New Theater Performance (Not For Real)


Banner Photo Credit: Caleb Wertenbaker