On the Horizon

Rinde Eckert caught between earth and sky.

Rinde Eckert caught between earth and sky.

In August 2004, Rinde Eckert left the flat plains of Nebraska for the flat plains of Davis to workshop his new performance piece with the help of some UC Davis graduate students. The unique musical drama, Horizon, was co-commissioned by UC Davis’ Mondavi Center and the Lied Center for Performing Arts at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Eckert traveled between the two campuses as he rewrote, reworked and otherwise tweaked this story of philosophical and theological struggles.

This week, Eckert will unveil his new avant-garde piece, Horizon, during a five-day West Coast premiere at the Mondavi Center from November 9 through 13. Then, it’s onto San Francisco for another weeklong run.

The flatness of both Nebraska and Davis plays into the theme and the minimalist set of Horizon. The unbroken line of earth and sky gives a clean slate to his tale of a theologian asked to leave his teaching post at a Midwestern university when his lectures are deemed too unconventional. The story is loosely based upon the life and writings of German-American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who was brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthy era. The play is centered on the ethics professor (renamed Reinhart Poole) as he struggles to write his final lecture and ponders the past and the unknown future.

Eckert is a theater figure with numerous hyphens in his title: performance artist-singer-actor-dancer-writer-director-musician. As the playwright, lead actor, and composer for Horizon, Eckert’s new work encompasses his many talents. Eckert was a UC Davis artist in residence last year, when he conducted master classes and workshopped Horizon. In addition, three of his previous works have been hosted on the campus: Ravenshead in 2001, And God Created Great Whales in 2002, and Slow Fire in 2005.