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Premier performance July 20th, 2024, Hainline Theater, Macomb, IL   7:00 PM

Tickets: Click Here

In fall of 2022, as Covid began to
recede, I decided to move forward
with an idea I had been pondering
for some time; creating a new show
that used all original music drawn
from over the course of my career.
Rural Western Illinois had always
been the main focus of my writing
and drawing on that body of work
seemed like a fine way to shift
gears back to original material
after having done a number of historic projects.  I decided to name the show Forgottonia, after the song I had written about Rushville.  That name has quite a history to it too.  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!

I applied for a Rural Initiative Grant from the Illinois Humanities Council to support the project.  I proposed creating a theatrical style performance, complete with a band, staging, lighting and most import of all, projected images from award winning photographer Tim Schroll. Tim had shot several of my album covers (including Forgottonia, above) and we have been friends for years. He is an award winning photographer who focuses on regional landscapes and “forgotten places”.  I’ve always said that Tim does visually what I do musically.  It just seemed like the perfect combination to me and I was delighted to learn that the the Illinois Humanities Council agreed!

 

Then came the “Oh, now I have to make this happen” moment.  Anyone who has undertaken a big grant project like this knows exactly what I mean! The initial location we planned to use for the show didn't work out and I began to look for another venue.  After several attempts to connect with a 

professional tech designer to program the images, I approached Dan Schmidt, Director of the Hainline Theater at Western Illinois University where I had produced Oh Freedom! in 2018.  Dan had the technical know how to create the image sequences and mentioned that the Hainline was dark during the last part of July (very rare) so I decided to hire Dan as the Tech Director and rent the Hainline for the performance. This proved to be an excellent choice.

 

With the new venue and tech staff in place, I began to work on the show, selecting material from the entire range of my writing, and contacting and hiring the musicians that would be the live band.  To stretch the budget, I went with a smaller back up group hiring mandolinist Don Steirnberg and bassist Marc Edelstein to act as the band.  Things felt like they were starting to come together. 

By Mid summer of 2023, I had the basic elements in place; staff, location,

band and music.  It was time to work on the images. I had begun the

process with Tim the year before as I completed the CD  Forgottonia

Tim and I met and discussed the concept, as we created the album

shots for that project.  At the same time, he began to play with pairing

images from his collection to my songs.

In July, we met to begin the image selection process.  That’s when I got

access to Tim’s entire collection of images going back to around the year

2000. He has an excellent eye for photography and shoots exclusively in

black and white. There were literally thousands of shots to look at and

select from. I reviewed them all, documenting potential choices,

then met with Tim and reviewed the results. I have to say, it was a 

pleasure working with Tim! Culling that collection was an immense task

but in the process, we created a work flow to track the images we

reviewed and to create the sequence and timing of the images.  I created i-movie videos as a working method to sequence and time the pics to the music. By December, we had all the images in place, sized and scanned with the documentation to go along with them.  I gave all this to Dan who created a Q lab file (a professional theater image/video/audio program) that would be used for the premier performance, then tour with the show.   Once that was in the can, I was finally able to turn towards the music.

 

I began rehearsing with the bassist in December, then met with both players in January to get things going. I had  not worked with a band since Oh Freedom!, and this meant rearranging the material for a trio; somewhat of a challenge to say the least!   

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Once band rehearsals were underway, I turned to promotion.  Illinois Humanities awarded me a second Rural Initiative Grant which allowed me a budget for promotion.  I hired a professional writer, to create an article to send out to promote the show initially and as it tours.  The Local NPR station, WIUM,  agreed to do a series of pieces on the show leading up to it’s premier.  As things progressed, it became clear that I needed professional help with promotion and branding.  The title Forgottonia  and it's backstory were a strong hook, but it needed to be properly presented and polished.  I ultimately approached Vania Kinard, a professional promoter and image consultant, to help brand and promote the project.

That’s where the things sits right now.  The show premiers on July the 20th 2024 at 7:00 pm at the Hainline Theater in Macomb, IL.  I’ll  update this page as I continue to create this show.  Follow along and see how “the sausage is made”!

In the meantime, here's an example of how I plan to use the images with the title song, Forgottonia

 

Click here for tickets.

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