CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: March 8, 2001
Rinde Eckert and Paul Dresher Ensemble return to UI
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Rinde Eckert and the Paul Dresher
Ensemble will return to the University of Iowa to perform "Ravenshead,"
which USA Today proclaimed the "Best New Opera of 1998," at 8 p.m.
Tuesday and Wednesday, March 27 and 28, in the Hancher Loft.
Hancher Loft is an intimate performance setting in
which the audience is seated on the Hancher stage, limiting the total seating
for each performance to 250. Entrance to the Hancher Loft is through the Stage
Door, near the loading dock on the west side of the building.
Eckert, an Iowa City native and UI alumnus, has become
a certified New York star since the last of his many visits to Hancher. One
of the reasons is the critical and popular response to the
high-intensity production of "Ravenshead," composed by Steven Mackey,
a faculty member at Princeton University, and written by Eckert.
The production, directed by Tony Taccone, artistic
director of the Tony-winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre, is a tour-de-force,
one-character opera based on the true misadventures of Donald Crowhurst, an
English businessman who set out, woefully unprepared, in a race to circumnavigate
the globe in a solo sailboat. Recognizing his hopeless situation and losing
his grip on reality, Crowhurst faked logbooks to indicate he was winning the
race before he disappeared at sea, probably a suicide, leaving his craft a
Praising Eckert for a "full and rounded performance
. . . as compelling musically as dramatically," James R. Oestreich of
the New York Times wrote, "Eckert climbed, dangled, dodged and danced,
hauntingly depicting not only the physical trials of the misbegotten journey
but also the unraveling of a mind and personality."
A review in American Theatre magazine concluded, "Ravenshead
had its New York audience hanging on the edge of their seats. The intellectual
audacity of this new work signals a
21st century full of possibilities for new musical theater."
A review in the New York Press said of the music,
" Mackeys score traffics in sweet, swirling, tonalism spiced with
minimalist runs. And its very postmodern in its use of quotations: I
picked up chunks of psychedelia, drones and Beatles melodies woven into his
score. Add a dash of Indiana Jones and you start to get a sense of the densely
packed landscape. Ravenshead was equal parts MTV video and Metropolitan
A Los Angeles Times review added, " Ravenshead
is an intricate mix of competing music. Mackey provides Eckert and Dreshers
virtuosic band of guitar, violin, saxophone, keyboards and percussion with
exciting challenges. Weird scales and harmonies, along with uncomfortable
rhythms, keep the listener off balance. There is the energy of rock music.
It may be too soon to say whether Ravenshead
will ultimately hold up as opera beyond this inspired production or whether
it is perishable performance art. But whatever it is, it is astonishing."
Eckert, whose father was the long-time head of the
UI voice faculty, graduated from the UI School of Music after a student career
that ranged from the lead in "Man of La Mancha" to performances
with the Center for New Music and experimental theater productions.
After graduate school at Yale University, Eckert established
his unique performance-art career in the San Francisco Bay area, working not
only with the Paul Dresher Ensemble but with innovative director George Coates
and choreographer Margaret Jenkins. He quickly gained a reputation as a charismatic
theatrical performer, recording artist, composer, lyricist, playwright, multi-instrumentalist
Following a Hancher performance of the Dresher/Eckert
rock-opera masterpiece "Slow Fire," Hancher Auditorium became heavily
involved in presenting and commissioning their work, including "Power
Failure," "Pioneer" and "Awed Behavior."
Hancher was the site of a Dresher world premiere performed
by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and his ensemble presented a concert, "Looking
West to the East" in 1994.
Eckert performed in Hancher with the Margaret Jenkins
Dance Company in1989, and returned to Hancher with several of his own works:
the Hancher-commissioned premiere of
"The Gardening of Thomas D," the world premiere of "The Idiot
Variations," and "Romeo, Sierra Tango," commissioned for the
New York Shakespeare Festival.
Eckert was a Partnership in the Arts guest artist
of the UI department of theatre arts in 1999, preparing the world premiere
of "A Tale We Told the Queen on the Evening of the Fourth Day of Our
Journey to the East" on the University Theatres Mainstage season.
The Iowa City Press-Citizen is the corporate sponsor
of "Ravenshead," through the University of Iowa Foundation.
Tickets for are $28 ($10 for UI students, $22.40 for
senior citizens and $14 for audience members 17 and younger) from the Hancher
Box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and
11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 335-1160. Long
distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to
(319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express.
UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty
and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures
may be requested by e-mail at
People with special needs for access, seating and
auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered
by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking,
wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The
line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that
For UI arts information, visit <www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa>
on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Learn more about "Ravenshead" at <http://www.members.aol.com/bernsarts/homepage/ravenshd.htm>.