Hailing from Geneseo, Illinois, Mary Simon headed to Illinois State University after high school, where she studied as a theater major before auditioning for Chaunce Conklin (1926-1999) and his Bloomington-based dinner theater operation in 1969. Falling in love with the project, she’s been involved with various Conklin theaters ever since, helping to open the dinner theater near Goodfield in 1975, where she became a regular contributor. In 1995, she took over the ownership and operation of the theater, renaming it Conklin’s Barn II Dinner Theatre.
Over the years, she’s directed over 140 productions, and starred in even more. Her favorite roles are numerous and varied, including parts in Smoke on the Mountain, Cemetery Club, Rumors, The Foreigner, Perfect Wedding and Funny Money. Though Conklin’s was dealt a near-fatal blow last year when the beloved Barn was badly damaged, its productions proved so popular that they continue on, for the time being, at Five Points Washington. Simon considers herself blessed to have made a living in live theater in central Illinois for more than 40 years… and counting.
- Words to live by: “This day, this moment, that’s it.”
- Favorite vacation spot: Anna Maria Island, Florida.
- Favorite actor/actress: Too many Brits to mention!
- Favorite aspect of central Illinois: The people.
- Person who has had the biggest impact on your life: Chaunce Conklin, founder of the Conklin Barn Theater.
- My motto these days is: Slow and steady!
- Hardest birthday: 30! I remember I was just so pleased on that day that my face hadn’t fallen off!
- Favorite guilty pleasure: Binge-watching Downton Abbey.
- Who inspires you? Joseph Campbell.
- What’s next? Who knows? a&s