By Scott MacClelland
YOU MAY NOT KNOW Teddy Eck, but you have seen his acting in film and television. In January 2019 Eck was hired as Theatre Department chair at Monterey Peninsula College. Starting this week and running for ten days, he will serve as facilitator of MPC’s New Works Festival, described in a press release as “a diverse collection of funny, sweet, and thoughtful short new plays, written by local playwrights, directed by student directors Linda Temple of MPC and Anthony Rodriquez of Monterey High School.” (With years of hands-on experience, Temple will direct six of the new plays; Rodriguez gets his turn directing ’86: A Coming of Age Story.) Eck, who is now on a tenure track at MPC, holds an MFA in Theatre for directing that also includes certificates in Non-Profit Leadership and Management from the University of Memphis. With a substantial body of professional work behind him—including a major stint with San Diego Repertory Theatre and Arts Memphis—and other acting and theater opportunities in Hollywood, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area ahead, one could ask why come to a small town like Monterey.
“After twelve years in stage and film, I really wanted to start moving toward being more of a producer, creator,” he told me during a recent phone chat. “Writing and directing led me to want to run my own theater company. Basically to do what I’m doing now, not just artistically but also the business and development side, the actual work to get projects off the ground.” As such he immerses himself in all aspects of a working theater company. “As an educator I never want to ask someone to do something I wouldn’t do or hadn’t done.”
Before completing his master’s degree, Eck took a BFA in Musical Theatre Performance and a certificate in Screenwriting and Film Production from The New School in New York. He is a proud AEA and SAG-AFTRA member. And you don’t want to mess with him because he is a Certified SAFD Actor Combatant. (Eck had a small part in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln as well as featured roles in several other film and TV productions, including commercials, as you can see in his Sizzle Reel, below.) He had applied to the University of Kansas (KU) to enter its PhD theater program but suddenly the MPC position was posted and he put his PhD aspirations “on the back burner.”
At MPC Eck will not only be in charge of its Theatre Company, but also the college’s theater arts program and classes as well as the dual-enrollment MPC has with area high schools. “With the New Works Festival we partner with the high schools, “to get them to be involved with us,” he says. “We want to actively support the shows they want to put on.” He cited his experience in Memphis. “There were 35 high schools in Memphis. To prepare for an awards show we went to see all of their productions, so everybody got a fair shake.”
Eck was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, descended from German and Irish heritage. “My dad was from a family of German farmers.” Prior to MPC, Eck was working at San Diego Rep. He moved here in January 2019 with his wife Leigh, now on the Monterey County Film Commission, and two young children.
Eck recently shared lunch with Peter Meckel, founding director of Hidden Valley. “We talked about professional theater possibilities here.” Remarking on our community as “full of gems and hidden talent,” he noted that “some people have been rooted here for a long time.” By that I took him to mean that turf competition has some clear lines drawn between different local theater companies. I remarked that the Monterey County Theatre Alliance seemed to be more about keeping the peace than to inspire collaboration. “I want to get them to play a little nicer with each other,” he said. “Where I come from I’m used to helping each other out.”