Ravenshead

Rinde Eckert as CrowhurstSteve Mackey - Composer

Rinde Eckert - Librettist

Tony Taccone - Director

Alexander V. Nichols - Set & Lighting Designer

Paul Dresher - Producer/Artistic Director

Performed by: Rinde Eckert - Singer/Actor

Live Music by: the Paul Dresher Ensemble Electro-Acoustic Band

For information about ordering MinMax Music's high-quality live CD recording of Ravenshead, click here.
A video is also available.

Paul Dresher - Electric Guitar
 (John Schott for tours 2000-02)
Karen Bentley — violin
  (Craig Fry for 1998 — 2000)
Paul Hanson - Bassoon & Saxophone
Amy Knoles - Electronic Mallet Percussion
Marja Mutru - Electronic Keyboard
Gene Reffkin - Electronic Drum Set

Gregory Kuhn - Sound Engineer
Mark Grey - Sound Engineer & MIDI Technician
Melissa Weaver - Production Director
David Welle — Original Technical Director
P eter Petralia — Original Production Assistant
Dave McCullough — Production Director (2000 — 02)
Robert Reetz — Master Carpenter

Ravenshead was co-commissioned and produced by Musical Traditions, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and The Pennsylvania State University‘s Center for the Performing Arts, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Opera America/Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Opera for a New America Project, The Rockefeller Foundation Multi-Arts Production Fund, and the California Arts Council.

The Paul Dresher Ensemble is represented exclusively by Bernstein Artists, Inc., 282 Flatbush Avenue # 101, Brooklyn, New York 11217 phone 718/623-1214 BernsArts@aol.com

Rinde Eckert is represented exclusively by California Artists Management, 41 Sutter Street #420, San Francisco, California 94104 phone 415/362-2787 camendrizz@aol.com

Steve Mackey’s music is published by Boosey & Hawkes in New York

Tony Taccone is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers



Ravenshead is a tour-de-force, combining a brilliant, multi-faceted score with the dazzling physicality and mordant wit of Rinde Eckert in performance. A meditation on the meaning of heroism versus hubris, of competence versus charisma, this material might be dull and pedantic in other hands, but brilliant composer Steve Mackey, acclaimed writer/performer Rinde Eckert and the phenomenal Paul Dresher Ensemble Electro-Acoustic Band pull off what the New York press called "... equal parts MTV video and Metropolitan Opera. The finale was a sheer blowout of energy."

Ravenshead  is based on the story of Donald Crowhurst, as reconstructed by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall in their book The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst.

Crowhurst was a British businessman who attempted to sail solo in a race around the world from the fall of 1968 to the summer of 1969. His motives for this enterprise were complex, ranging from practical business concerns (he had designed and manufactured a navigational device, sales of which were in sore need of such publicity) to psychological imperatives (a need to prove himself - Crowhurst was an intelligent and ambitious man of modest birth in a class conscious society).

Crowhurst was unprepared for his trip.

He came face to face with his limitations in the South Atlantic. His boat was taking on water, his self steering gear was falling apart, and he was missing vital equipment (the result of slip-shod inventory at the outset). Disappointed in himself and embarrassed by his slow progress, he began to exaggerate his speed in his occasional radio reports, reporting positions far in advance of where he actually was. Crowhurst was probably assuming he would make up the difference over the course of the trip. Soon, however, he realized he wasn't going to make it.

At this critical juncture Crowhurst made a momentous decision. In short, he decided to fake it. He reasoned that by appearing to finish the race but lose it, he might save face while avoiding the magnified attention that would surely result from winning. As an also ran, a dignified failure, he would be afforded enough publicity to benefit his business (and thereby his family and his standing within the community) while remaining unimportant enough to avoid scrutiny and detection, his ships log only glanced at, his accounts taken at face value.

Still, the construction of a log book that would pass even the most cursory examination was an involved undertaking. Crowhurst had to spend long hours monitoring weather reports from around the globe, figuring winds and currents, time, speed and positions, inventing plausible anecdotes for the margins, etc.

In the end, all his effort was undone when his only remaining competition, having heard that Crowhurst was somewhere behind him coming home, pushed his boat too hard in an attempt to ensure a first place finish, and foundered, leaving Crowhurst in sole possession of the lead.

Crowhurst, having already committed himself to the lie by means of fraudulent radio reports of his position, knew he was facing a disastrous unmasking and total ruin. He had been out at sea by himself with limited radio contact (partially by design) for well over 200 days.

His log entries from these last days are a mess of philosophic and religious speculation:

"I had a complete set of answers to the most difficult problems now facing mankind. I had arrived in the cosmos while contemplating the navel of the ape..."

"Now at last man has everything he needs to think like a cosmic being.

At the moment it must be true that I am the only man on earth who realizes what this means. It means I can make myself a cosmic being..."

"My folly gone ‘forward’ in imagination

Wrong decision not perfect Time

no longer computed Had disorganizes Clocks"

Then, the last written words of Donald Crowhurst:

"It has been a good game that must be ended at the I will play this game when I choose I will resign the game 11 20 40 There is no reason for harmful"

It is supposed that he abandoned ship on the 243rd day of his strange voyage, jumping overboard while the ship sailed on. He left his beloved wife and four children.

Ravenshead is our exploration of Crowhurst's improbable story.

Opera/New Music Theater

"This fascinating story resonates with elemental power.... Eckert is an unbelievably gifted performer.... a tour-de-force... one of the season’s finest."
  –Brad Rosenstein, The San Francisco Bay Guardian

"...an incredible look at a brilliant man’s inability to understand his limitations... The wild music of the six-piece Paul Dresher Ensemble... weaves a wily sonic tapestry...."
  –Mark De La Vina, San Jose Mercury News

"... an extraordinary portrait of a flawed heroic journey... wickedly insightful...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 possibility for new music theatre."
  – Kathleen Hulser, American Theatre

"Best Opera of ‘98.... Librettist Rinde Eckert doubled as the opera’s only singer, delivering a tour de force to Mackey’s insinuating, rock-influenced score."
  –David Patrick Stearns, USA Today