Erkkila attended Yankton College in South Dakota and served in the U.S. Navy in the early 1960s. In 1962 he moved to San Francisco where he played flute with West Coast orchestras and chamber groups including the Contemporary Woodwind Quintet, Renaissance Trio, and San Francisco Street Trio; recorded with two folk rock groups, Sunshine and Lamb; and performed at such clubs as The Coffee Gallery, The Drinking Gourd, Avalon Ballroom, The Fillmore West, and The Family Dog. He created scores for San Francisco Dance Spectrum and Xoregos Dance Company, and for productions of Edward Albee's The Sandbox, Jean Anouilh's Thieves' Carnival, and a production of A Thurber Carnival.
Erkkila also appeared as an actor at the San Francisco Playhouse, The Interplayers, and the International Repertory Theater, and performed the role of The Mute in the San Francisco production of The Fantasticks. Between 1967 and 1970 he studied classical flute with Paul Renzi, Merrill Jordan, and Alain Marion. He left San Francisco in 1970 to work in New York.
There he became a founding member of the Theatre of the Open Eye, created by Jean Erdman and Joseph Campbell. For the Open Eye Erkkila created two productions, An Event in the Time of Moulting Swans and Sundoor, and collaborated with composer Teiji Ito on the score for Fire and Ice. Also with Ito he performed Jerome Robbins' Watermill for the New York City Ballet. He collaborated and performed in Ito's Axis Mundi with Genji Ito, and in Ito's score for Savages, a play by Christopher Hampton at Center Stage Baltimore, puppets by Julie Taymor. Erkkila composed scores for Julie Taymor's Way of Snow and Tirai, Linda Mussman's Danton's Death, for which he won an ASCAP Award, and A Yeats Trio for the Open Space Theater, which won a Villager Award for outstanding score. He also composed scores for Oscar Wilde's Salome at Judson Memorial Church and Garcia Lorca's The Love of Don Perlimplin and Belissa in Their Garden and the songs for a New York Shakespeare Festival production of Hamlet. He worked with Elizabeth Swados as musical director and performer in Alice (with Meryl Streep), Alladin and Jerusalem, and also performed Swados' music for Dispatches and Agamemnon.
Erkkila provided original scores for Ralph Lee's Metawee River Company, LaMaMa Experimental Theatre Club, Sachiyo Ito, Ruby Shang, Carolyn Carlson, Ruth Barnes, Edward Henkel, Jeanette Stoner, Pat Catterson, Peggy Harrer, Carlos Caravjal, Maureen Williams and Chris Odo, and composed concert pieces for many new music ensembles including Relâche, First Avenue Ensemble, Downtown Ensemble, Far Wind, and the Tibetan Singing Bowl Ensemble. With this last group he was principal soloist from 1985 to 1989.
He held a two-month residency with the Lakota Sioux Nation in 1976 and a Rockefeller/La Mama E.T.C. cultural residency with the Bambinga Pygmies of Central Africa for several months in 1984, and toured Japan in 1987 with the Tibetan Singing Bowl Ensemble, performing in commemoration of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Erkkila's work in the visual arts included many ink drawings, watercolor paintings, images made from typings and xerox manipulations (including an exhibition entitled Hieroglyphics for the Year 2000), and works of cut and folded paper. He also wrote poetry.
Dan Erkkila died of AIDS in New York at the age of 51 on November 1, 1992.
Amazon All-Stars: Thirteen Lesbian Plays: with Essays and Commentary by Rosemary Keefe Curb
Paperback: 482 pages
Publisher: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books (April 1, 2000)
Amazon: Amazon All-Stars: Thirteen Lesbian Plays: with Essays and Commentary
Collects for the first time major lesbian plays from controversial cultural perspectives spanning more than a generation of work in varied theatrical styles representing an amazing gamut of lesbian politics from all over America. Includes: The Quintessential Image (Jane Chambers) * The Postcard (Gloria Joyce Dickler) * A Lady and a Woman (Shirlene Holmes) * Nasty Rumors and Final Remarks (Susan Miller) * Desdemona (Paula Vogel) * and more!
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