PREMIERE: Forgottonia An Intimate Portrait of Rural Illinois

by Chris Vallillo and featuring images by Photographer Tim Schroll

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Jul 20, 2024


Andrew and Jessie Hainline Theatre
Macomb, IL 61455



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This event is presented by Illinois Humanities grantee partner and Road Scholar Chris Vallillo.

Folklorist and performer Chris Vallillo has spent the past 35 years documenting and preserving the heritage of Western Illinois, lovingly referred to as "Forgottonia."

Forgottonia An Intimate Portrait of Rural Illinois is a musical journey through the people and places of rural Illinois just as the last vestiges of the old "Forgottonia" slowly eroded. This show combines storytelling, historically accurate narratives, and live music with the projected images of award-winning rural photographer Tim Schroll, long known for his striking black-and-white images of rural Illinois. 

"Tim is doing visually, what I am trying to do musically and it seemed like a perfect combination," said Chris Vallillo.

Chris will share the history and backstories of songs that document, reflect, and validate people, places, and characters of rural Illinois and all of rural America paired with Tim's powerful images.

Learn more about...

Chris Vallillo

Chris Vallillo is an award-winning rural singer/songwriter, folk musician and folklorist with a natural affinity for American roots music. 

A master of bottleneck slide guitar, Chris weaves original, contemporary, and traditional songs into a compelling and entertaining portrait of the history and lifestyle of the Midwest. 

In the mid 1980s Chris was involved in documenting the last of the “pre-radio” generation of rural musicians in Illinois.

Vallillo’s songwriting has often been compared to the poems of Edgar Lee Masters, who’s famous “Spoon River Anthology” depicted the complex struggles of Midwestern life in simple verse. 

Perhaps the archaeology degree Vallillo earned at Beloit College helped him see the important little details of life which imbue his songs with a sense of history.

Follow @chrisvallillo Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Chris Vallillo Centerstage001

Learn more about Chris Vallillo at

Tim Schroll
Tim Schroll

Tim Schroll was born in Beardstown, Illinois. His father was the local photographer whose studio and darkroom were in the house where he and his five siblings grew up. His life was always surrounded by the world of photography. He acquired his first camera while serving in the US Navy in 1972. 

Tim’s passion for chasing light started then and continues to this day. In 1978, Tim started photographing in large format black and white and found that this medium best conveys his personal interpretation of the world. 

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To try to describe his style is difficult. It is a blend of landscape, nature, and objects in isolation. Jerry Hovanec of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery states that:

"Tim's photographs are vibrant, austere, and compelling, Tim's economy of design and composition has changed how I see what I see. He has distilled complexity into essential simplicity...A visual Haiku in black and white. My mind’s eye is forever changed.

Learn more about Tim Scroll and his work at


Western Illinois got the name “Forgottonia” in 1972 when Jack Horn, John Armstrong, and Neil Gamm declared the creation of the independent nation of Forgottonia in protest of the lack of tax dollars returning to the region. 

The plan was to secede from the Union, declare war on the United States, immediately surrender, and then apply for foreign aid. 

It was great political theater... and to everyone's surprise, it worked!

Learn more about "The Republic of Forgottonia."

Neal Gamm at Forgottonia bridge

Learn more about the journey to Forgottonia: An Intimate Portrait of Rural Illinois.

Andrew and Jessie Hainline Theatre Accessibility Info

The Hainline Theatre is a part of Western Illinois University's Browne Hall, which houses the department offices, along with the College of Fine Arts and Communication and School of Music. 

The venue is wheelchair accessible. Restrooms are located in the lobby on the first floor. The Theatre has up to eight seats that can be moved to make space for wheelchairs. Hearing-assist devices are available.

Please contact Dan Schmidt before the event to reserve wheelchair seating and hearing-assist devices at or via phone at (309) 298-1554.

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Get directions here.

A sample from Forgottonia An Intimate Portrait of Rural Illinois