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.

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.


New music projects Rinde has written and directed include 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. 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, and will be on tour in the 2017-2018 Season.

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 actress.                                                                    

Updated June 2016 – please discard any previous versions.





Rinde Eckert and the composer-performer Ned Rothenberg, both honored veterans of the avant-garde, team up to create a piece that imagines how animals might perceive human beings, an illusion brought to life with an array of unconventional sounds and gestures.  Collaborating with beatbox artist Adam Matta, and designer/co-director Mark DeChiazza, Five Beasts premiered in Lyon, France during March 2015 and is now available for touring. 

Five Beasts Promo Video by Mark DeChiazza
Les Subsistances in Lyon, France
March 2015



An album released November 1, 2004, Sandhills Reunion includes music by Jerry Granelli and text written and performed by Rinde Eckert. It is a multi-layered interweaving of words and music that Granelli calls an audio movie or play.  The video featured at right was shot by Mark DeChiazza and Mark Andrews during a three day excursion to Nebraska. The text by Eckert  is a glancingly linked sequence of reflections, imaginings, internal monologues and one historically accurate dialogue (“Twenty Questions for an Outlaw”) using the persona of Billy the Kid as a thematic touchstone and the Sandhills region of northwestern Nebraska as the landscape of memory and desire.

“...Granelli and the band really shine behind Eckert’s words, leaving perfect space for story…[but] Eckert really steals the show…His stories are some of the most vivid and amazing tales put to record recently.” 

— Ryan McDermott, One Final Note



Steven Mackey - Guitar, Rinde Eckert - Vocals, Jason Treuting - Bass, Mark Haanstra - Drums

It answers a call to each of these musicians to a place where the rules normative to the hard genres of music (classical, jazz, folk, pop, blues, and world, for example) are set aside.  Under the banner of ‘prog-rock’ it becomes possible for the group to express the eclecticism of its members, a place where serious counterpoint can meet burlesque, earnestness meet abandon; a place where we can kick it or take it to tea, reflect, attack, mourn, dance, pray, or mock with ease or determination, joy or fervor, using any and all means necessary.  This world is a big farm – lots of different crops, changing weather, livestock, and a duck pond for good measure.

*Big Farm Live at Joe's Pub, New York City

"Given half the chance, I’ll take the photograph that lies / I’ll take the romance, the beauty of her less than truthful eyes."

— Lyric (excerpt), Ghosts




Created by Jonathan Berger

Performed by Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert, tenor, Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ, traditional Vietnamese musician

  • Friday, January 29, 2016
  • 7:30pm  8:30pm
  • Harris Theater at Millennium Park 

This World Premiere of My Lai, a new operatic work composed by San Francisco Bay Area composer and Stanford University Professor of Music Jonathan Berger will be performed by Rinde Eckert, Kronos Quartet and Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ, traditional Vietnamese musicianat Harris Theater Millenium Park in Chicao, IL in January 2016.

"My Lai, an operatic monodrama for voice, traditional Vietnamese instruments, and string quartet, is composed by San Francisco Bay Area composer and Stanford University Professor of Music Jonathan Berger. An artistic portrayal of and response to the infamous 1968 civilian massacre by U.S. troops during the Vietnam War, My Lai approaches the story from U.S. Army helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson’s perspective. In lieu of a linear narrative, the story emerges in fragments as the aging and infirm Thompson reflects on the war and on decades of being maligned as unpatriotic and traitorous for attempting to stop the slaughter."

Click here to Learn More 

PERICLES at TWO RIVER THEATRE with music and lyrics by RINDE ECKERT and direction by DAVID SCHWEIZER

As part of Two River Theatre's 2015-16 season, see Shakespeare’s thrilling and epic tale of adventure, shipwreck and romance brought to life with original songs by Rinde Eckert and direction by David Schweizer.

When Pericles uncovers the King’s dark secret, he is forced to flee his Kingdom and navigate the roaring sea and its islands’ lovers, magicians & pirates. This production will be an exhilarating and mystical event you will not want to miss.