Rinde W. Eckert, 73BM, is a major American playwright, performer, composer, and director whose extraordinary body of work is a tour de force in the world of performing arts.
The son of a voice professor in the University of Iowa School of Music, Eckert understood from an early age that "all the world's a stage," and he appeared in a number of student productions while majoring in music at Iowa.
After earning his UI bachelor's degree in 1973, Eckert went on to complete his master's in music in 1975 at Yale University. During the early years of his career, he was a writer and performer who produced librettos and composed dance scores. In 1992—well on his way to becoming a "total theater performer"—he began composing and performing his own music-theater pieces. His first work, The Gardening of Thomas D, which was an homage to Dante, toured in the United States and France.
Today, Eckert enjoys a global reputation as a groundbreaking and interdisciplinary artist. His music-theater productions have been performed throughout America and at major theater festivals in Europe and Asia, and he has earned dozens of honors, beginning with a 1987 Critics Circle Award in San Francisco.
In 2007, Eckert was one of three finalists for a Pulitzer Prize for his play Orpheus X. He also received a 2000 Obie Award for Best Performance for his And God Created Great Whales. In the words of one review, "And God Created Great Whales is not watched so much as it is experienced, and its haunting images are the sort that stick with the viewer long after the curtains have gone down."
In addition to his tremendous theatrical success, Eckert also has proven himself a firstrate composer, librettist, and director of musical works. He collaborated with other artists on highly-praised works such as the Sandhills Reunion CD, Horizon, The Schick Machine, and Dreamhouse, which received three 2010 Grammy nominations for Best Classical Album; Best Orchestral Performance; and Best Engineered Album, Classical. Eckert also wrote and performed in the multimedia production, Slide, with eighth blackbird. Renamed Lonely Motel by Cedille Records, it won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance.
As a fitting tribute to the breadth and depth of his originality and talent, the American Academy of Arts and Letters honored Eckert with a 2005 Marc Blitzstein Memorial Award. He also has been recognized through fellowships and grants as a Guggenheim fellow in music composition (2007), a recipient of the Alpert Award in the Arts for theater (2009), and as an inaugural Doris Duke Artist (2012).
Though he's performed as the headliner on stages around the globe, Eckert still has deep roots in Iowa. Returning often to the UI campus, he has performed at Hancher, created and directed two major works—A Tale They Told the Queen and Eye Piece—with the Department of Theatre Arts, and led several workshops with students.
Through his love of his craft, his care for his collaborators, and the originality of his artistic vision, Rinde W. Eckert has proved a true advocate for the arts and a true friend of the UI.