Terry Dobson, who for 30-plus years served as a music director, keyboardist, actor, playwright and bon vivant in the Dallas theater community, died last night. He was 59.
It was hard to miss Terry. Standing six-foot-six and cutting a lanky silhouette with a Marty Feldman-esque mug, he towered over theater lobbies. But much of his career, mostly as the musical director at Theatre 3, was spent behind the scenes, arranging scores of the musicals performer there, usually leading the band and playing piano. But Terry could also be frequently seen in front of the limelights. He last trod the boards in Assassins playing the would-be presidential murderer Sam Byck.
The play Terry will be most closely associated with will surely be My Own Private Diva, a more-or-less solo show about his journey from his native Slapout, Ala., to the big city of Dallas. The play was also a love letter to his best friend and muse, local actress Sally Soldo.
Soldo was with Terry and members of his family when he passed away last night in New York City. Plans are currently underway to arrange for a cremation.
Terry was a longtime HIV survivor, and was very open about his status. About a year ago, his health took a serious turn which necessitated him stepping down from his duties at Theatre 3. But in recent weeks, he had bounced back. Personally, I ran into Sally and Terry about a month ago at the Dallas Summer Musicals. He was in good spirits and alert and friendly. “He was in great shape and happy,” Soldo told me. “This was very sudden.”
His fatal illness was unrelated to his HIV status. Terry recently traveled to New York City to take in some Broadway shows. While there, he fell ill and was admitted to a hospital. He had developed sepsis owing to a perforated ulcer. He was treated with antibiotics and seemed to be improving. Then he developed some abscesses and his condition worsened over the weekend. Soldo flew to his side Tuesday to meet with the family.
Dallas services are pending. “Terry hated memorial services,” Soldo said. “When he had to play music for them, he ducked out as soon as it was over. So I don’t know what we will be doing, but I am sure it will involve chocolate.”
Terry would have appreciated that.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 24, 2015.