Life Stories

LIFE STORIES: Retired parole officer finds second career in theater

Quincy Community Theater Executive Director Dan Conboy poses for a photo on the set of "Is He Dead?" on Friday, May 4, 2018. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 21, 2018 9:00 am

QUINCY -- Dan Conboy's professional career focused on the legal system, but in his private time, the retired parole officer always has sought out the stage.

The Quincy Community Theatre executive director has played Bob Cratchet in the Christmas Carol five times, but he thinks the time may have come for him to seek out the Scrooge role instead. His favorite roles have been the Giver in "The Giver" and Man in Chair in "The Drowsy Chaperone." His most recent role was as Horace Vandergelder in "Hello, Dolly!".

"Community theater instills a sense of community," he said. "You get to contribute to each other, and there's really nothing more fulfilling than that. The things that make you feel best are how you contribute and help other people."

The Monroe City, Mo., native was a jokester in school, always drawing attention to himself while trying to make people laugh. That translated into a love of performing that started in his junior year with the annual musical. Junior year, he starred in "Ondine," but his pivotal part -- the one that made him fall in love with live theater -- was as Lord Brockhurst, a comedic role in "The Boy Friend," that he performed in his senior year. He reprised that role at QCT three years ago, 45 years or so after he first played the part.

"I think like every actor I was afraid I would miss a line and cause somebody else to miss a line," he said, "but the interesting thing about it is, once the curtain goes up, and the lights come up, all that fear is gone. You are that character."

Fulfilling work as parole officer

After high school, he attended Northeast Missouri State University to study law enforcement and corrections.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do when I went to college," he said. "I'm from Monroe City, and I'd never really been out of town to speak of."

He worked as a parole officer for the state of Missouri for 40 years, running the Highway 15 Corridor -- Monroe, Shelby, Knox and Scotland counties -- out of the Hannibal office. It was hard to gauge the personal growth of his clients, but he found the work fulfilling.

"Most of them weren't criminals, they were just guys and girls who made dumb choices," he said. "All you hear about are the ones who continually screw up, but I think I've helped some people straighten their act out and do well."

The career helped him to shed a black-and-white view of the world, recognizing that every person has good and bad traits and that making mistakes doesn't detract from the good a person does in life.

"I never wanted to lose that thought," he said. "It's easy to get callused in the law enforcement field."

Later in his career, he became a supervisor. In 2006, when the Hannibal Community Supervision Center opened -- which housed 18 probation and parole officers and a small residential component similar to a halfway house for those who have violated their terms -- Conboy served as district administrator.

‘I've loved this theater'

"The whole time I was in probation and parole, I was involved in community theater," he said.

Conboy was involved with six shows with Hannibal Community Theatre before his family moved to Quincy in the late 1980s to have access to a better deaf education program for his son, Jess. Then he began auditioning with Quincy Community Theatre.

"It took me years before I finally got a role," he said. "My first one here was in 1993. I played one of Joseph's brothers in ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.' "

He estimates he has performed in over 20 shows, and he has been volunteering with QCT for 25 years.

When the managing artistic director position was split into the artistic director and executive director positions four years ago, Conboy, a board member at the time, stepped into the executive director role. He plans to step down by the end of the year. After he leaves the position, his successor will enter as a full-time employee.

"I've loved this theater, from the first day I walked in over at 13th and Payson," he said. "There's nothing like seeing a story where people that you know are actually telling it."

Staff Writer Matt Dutton will bring you a story detailing the life of a local resident each Monday.

Sign up for Email Alerts