Jenkins and collaborators immerse the audience in ‘Toward 45’

San Francisco Chronicle
By Claudia Bauer
May 18, 2018

There are work-in-progress showings, and then there is Margaret Jenkins Dance Company’s “Toward 45.” Technically, it’s a casual salon where celebrated choreographer Jenkins, her 10 dancers and longtime collaborators like musician Paul Dresher and poet Michael Palmer can share ideas they’re developing for a celebratory performance next season, the company’s 45th anniversary.

In reality, “Toward 45,” which opened a three-night stand at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance on Thursday, May 17, is a fully realized, up-close immersion in music, poetry, contemporary dance and theater.

It’s also the first time all of the collaborators — Jenkins, Palmer, Dresher, theater artist Rinde Eckert and scenic and lighting designer Alexander V. Nichols — have worked on the same piece since “The Gates (Far Away Near)” in 1993, though they’ve collaborated in smaller configurations in the interim.

Review: ‘Iron & Coal’ at Strathmore

DC Metro Theater Arts
By John Stolenberg
May 5, 2018

The sheer magnitude of the concert event was enough to inspire wonder and awe. More than 200 musicians packed the Strathmore stage and a balcony above—two orchestras, three choirs, a rock band—plus animated projections on a widescreen scrim and a stadium-scale light plot flooding the hall. For two nights only, Jeremy Schonfeld’s 2011 rock concept album Iron & Coal got mega-sized. The effect was gloriously spectacular and overwhelmingly beautiful—and also dramatically not quite focused.

Composer/lyricist Schonfeld created Iron & Coal as a tribute to his German Jewish father, Gustav Schonfeld, whose story is gripping: At the age of 10 he was sent to Auschwitz and survived along with his father until liberation. Then, reunited a year later with his mother, who also survived, Gustav grew up in the United States and became a renowned medical doctor, much lauded in his lifetime. (He died in 2011 on the very day his son’s Iron & Coal was mastered.) Portions of his autobiography, titled Absence of Closure, were incorporated into the concert program. He was “the first refuge kid from war to be bar mizvahed” at his synagogue in St. Louis (“The boy who lost his childhood becomes a man today”). He tells vividly of his post-traumatic nightmares. The snippets from Gustav’s memoir make one want to read more.

Review: My Lai massacre, 50 years later: Jonathan Berger's opera captures the madness


MARCH 11, 2018

"Where in God's name is the medic?" the dying hospital patient demands. He's not asking for help for himself. He's frantically trying to save a boy's life. It's a scream, one of the important screams in American history, that has haunted him for 38 years.

Jonathan Berger's opera "My Lai" — written for the Kronos Quartet, tenor Rinde Eckert and Vân-Ánh Võ, a virtuoso player of traditional Vietnamese instruments — takes place during the last hallucinatory days of Hugh Thompson Jr. He was the U.S. Army helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War who flew over the massacre in My Lai. Above the fray, he could see the mass hysteria below that warped the minds of Charlie Company. Those men were infamously commanded to wipe out everything walking, crawling or growing. More than 500 civilians, mostly women, children and the elderly, were slaughtered. There was no evidence of Viet Cong activity.

Review: Kronos Quartet Revisits Vietnam Horror in ‘My Lai’

By James R. Oestreich
September. 28, 2017
The New York Times

You would like to think that a soldier who took a heroic stand against evil and managed to save at least a few lives amid a massacre could find peace of mind in his dying days. The creators of “My Lai,” a musical theater work given its premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Wednesday evening, suggest otherwise in the case of Hugh Thompson.

Vietnam is much in the air at the moment, thanks to the PBS documentary series “The Vietnam War,” by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. But as comprehensive as that survey is, it gives surprisingly cursory treatment to the massacre of more than 500 Vietnamese civilians by American troops in the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968. When it finally came to light, in November 1969, that mass killing proved pivotal in marshaling American fatigue and disgust with the war, which finally led to the withdrawal of troops in 1973.

Maine rivers don’t just flood, they inspire art

BDN Maine
April 18, 2017

 Patty Wight | Maine Public Visiting artist Rinde Eckert (right) works with students during a rehearsal.

Patty Wight | Maine Public
Visiting artist Rinde Eckert (right) works with students during a rehearsal.

Students of theater, music, and art at the University of Southern Maine may share similar areas of creative interest, but they tend to focus on their own media. In the past few months, that’s changed.

The students have been collaborating on a theater production that explores how Maine’s waterways have shaped its history. The show, “Molded by the Flow,” opens Friday in Lewiston.

The name not only reflects the content of the show, it’s also a metaphor for how it was created. It’s what’s called devised theatre, where producers toss aside the typical predetermined script and instead form a show from improvisation and collaboration.

It’s an approach that senior Cameron Prescott, a major in music performance, was not used to.

“I was very, uh, apprehensive about the whole thing. As a performer, I like everything under control and prepared. It took me time to realize that this isn’t that,” he says.

Two visiting artists, Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert, guided the students in creating the show, which is described as a “poetic, visual, and musical narrative” that explores the relationship between Maine’s waterways and its history. Eckert says it’s about how streams shaped the landscape and formed rivers, the power of which was harnessed by mills, and how that water flowed out to the ocean, which has its own power, and created centers of culture and community through its ports.

Rinde's writing on The Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center
Just did my debut at the Kennedy Center in the intimate and handsome Family Theater. I was gratified to see the place almost full. I was the first concert in the series (curated by the remarkable Renée Fleming), and, perhaps, the farthest out of the five (Billy Childs, Jane Monheit, Leslie Odom Jr., Alan Cumming, and me). So I felt I needed to usher the audience into my world with care. Started off with my classical male alto at its most medieval, headed into something operatic but on a folk-like melody, then picked up a foot-long section of galvanized pipe and started blowing a rhythmic riff, and singing my version of the old spiritual Gospel Plough.
We were far afield now, so I brought them home again with a new arrangement of Black is the Color with a synth accompaniment, and a French melodie from 1913 by Reynaldo Hahn on a poem by Théophile de Viau, singing and doing my best impression of an accompanist at the same time. I followed that with a somewhat skewed (and, I think, touching) arrangement of Nun Danket Alle Gott. Then I turned to the guitars and ukuleles. The audience seemed up for the adventure, so we just sailed along after that, moving from genre to genre and instrument to instrument until my hour and a half was up. Ended with a thing called Prayer, a kind of piano chorale under a falsetto melody. Here are the words: 
When out of ignorance we forget how alike we are
Have mercy, have mercy upon us
When out of greed we forget to care for one another
Have mercy, have, mercy upon us
When out of fear we forget what makes us human
Have mercy , have mercy upon us
Let us pray for a day when we may understand
Let us pray for a day when we may be a wiser people

Review: ‘Aging Magician,’ a Fable Complete With Complexities

The New York Times
By Anthony Tommasini
March 9, 2017

Harold, a middle-aged, solitary sad sack, earns his living making and repairing clocks. What really consumes him, though, is the children’s book he has been writing for years, about an aging magician who must pass on his Book of Secrets to a receptive child, a magician heir. But before he can do so, the magician collapses and is rushed to a hospital.

How should Harold end the story? And why is he finding it so difficult? He shares his crisis in the poignant, entrancing "Aging Magician," at the New Victory Theater, the invaluable company that presents family-oriented entertainment...

BWW Review: Experience the Timeless Magic of the New Vic's THE AGING MAGICIAN

by Kristen Morale
March 7, 2017

I am sometimes amazed by how brilliant some people in this world are, especially when it comes to bringing exciting and downright mesmerizing pieces of art to the stage - because a production that has the power to make people come together in such unanimous awe can only be described as art. When this can be said of a children's show no less, it is even more admirable, and I have the greatest confidence that all who see The Aging Magician at the New Victory Theater will be shocked by how shockingly beautiful this show is.

And when I say beautiful, it is an understatement to describe what, exactly, makes this so memorable a concept and performance. With a plot as intricate as the gears of a clock and meant for both those who have much or little time ahead of them, The Aging Magician, like a magic trick itself, is a little bit elusive, requires a little bit of personal insight, but does not beg for more than the audience's belief to make it truly something of a wonder.

Rinde Eckert performs RIN: Tales from the Life of a Troubador at The Kennedy Center (review)

Rinde Eckert performs RIN: Tales from the Life of a Troubador at The Kennedy Center (review)

February 7, 2017
By Susan Galbraith
DC Theatre Scene

"...Just as he defies categorization of music styles or voice techniques, Eckert blurs all lines between creator and interpreter. Many performance artists are known for attempting this, but what makes him exceptional is that he is so darn good in all aspects of music-theatre..."