Bob Dutton dies before Zoom performance

Wife reports he saw the dress rehearsal of his final play.

UPDATED AUG. 29

Bob Dutton is known to countless Islanders for Island Entertainment, which he founded in 1986, for his work with the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse and as the theater manager of the M.V. Film Center. Bob would often get up and introduce movies to the audience. Bob was also instrumental in creating the LGBTQ Spectrum Film Festival.

Just hours before a play he had written was scheduled to be performed during a Zoom call on Friday morning, Dutton died, Terre Young, a board member for the Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group, told The Times. According to Young, Molly Conole, Bob’s wife, appeared on the Zoom performance to announce that Bob had died during the night, but that he had seen a dress rehearsal for the play. 

Conole told The Times previously that on July 7, Bob Dutton was rushed to Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston with what was to be diagnosed as Glioblastoma, a very aggressive brain tumor. And unfortunately, according to Molly, Bob was too weak to withstand chemotherapy or radiation treatments. “He fought so hard,” Molly said, “but the tumor fought harder.”

Bob was taken off of any proactive treatment and released from Brigham & Women’s on August 23 so he could return home and be surrounded by family and friends. Unfortunately things took another turn for the worse this Tuesday when Bob was no longer able to get sustenance from his feeding tubes and continued to grow even weaker.

Bob was a playwright, he’s a past recipient of the Kaplan Playwriting Competition sponsored by the Eventide Theatre Company on Cape Cod.

He had been working on a new play called “The Ivory Door,” a work based loosely on a play by A.A. Milne. “Very loosely,” Molly said.

When Rhonda Day Ross, an old friend of Bob’s from Emerson College and someone who had worked with both Bob and Molly when they were in Florida working as actors at Disney and  Universal Studios, learned of Bob’s medical condition she thought what better gift could she give Bob than to produce his new play.

“Everything happened so quickly,” Ross said. “I got the script on Sunday, and put a post on Facebook to cast for the parts for a Zoom performance and we got a terrific response. People came out of the woodwork, people from Emerson College, people Bob and Molly had worked with in Florida, people from the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse.” Bob and Molly’s two children, Mia and Simon, will even have roles. 

Rhonda also got a response from Mitzi Maxwell who runs the Mad Cow Theater in Orlando, where Bob and Molly once performed. “Mitzi volunteered to give us her Zoom platform,” Rhonda said, “she also volunteered the services of her graphic designer who designed a playbill, and her stage manager.

The Zoom production was held at 10 am Friday morning led by Molly’s announcement. 

In an email to the Times, Conole wrote that when Bob saw the dress rehearsal “he heard his words come to life and all the love of his friends who generously made it happen. There couldn’t have been a more fitting tribute to him.”

Updated with a comment from Dutton’s wife.