He was one of our very first students. He was King Triton. He was funny. He was the theater owner that reached out a helping hand. He was a mentor. He was everyone’s best friend. Most importantly, he was an unbelievable father and husband. Steve Dubin passed away on Saturday, September 16th, 2017. He was only 45 years old.
I’m writing this less than 24 hours of his passing, so I don’t have many details regarding his memorial or other details.
I met Steve in the fall of 2012. We had recently started performing shows at Showtime Performing Arts in East Boca and a handful of people had asked us to start classes. Steve, who’s daughter was an actor/dancer at Showtime joined our very first class, later to be named “Incognito”. It was a special group. Just 5 students. I still have a close relationship with all of them. In fact, Jesse is one of our cast members. I’ll keep the rest more private. Steve didn’t do social media. He was a private guy. The only way you would know what was happening is by picking up the phone when he called or meeting him for a beer or when we crossed paths at the Theater.
In one of our classes, there was a newer student that joined the group that was problematic. So much so, that other students were uncomfortable with continuing if that person was going to be there. I was very unsure of myself and didn’t know what to do. I did the less professional thing and called each student to ask what to do. I got some great advice from everyone, but I remember Steve saying “You just have to realize that this is your company and it’s up to you to make it the way you want it to look. Part of that is making hard decisions, having hard conversations and hurting people’s feelings.” He probably wouldn’t remember that discussion, but it has served me well over the years.
That particular class was special because many of our cast members were just as green to improv as the students. Sometimes their showcases would make our shows look like we were the students. We acted more like an improv troupe that I coached than a group of students. I had created an individual and unique relationship with all of them, especially Steve. He’s only 7 years older than me, but when you’re 33, a 40 year old is still way older. Today, I feel like at 38, Steve and I are really about the same age.
He has two lovely children. He talked about them a lot. Bragged about them. So proud of what both of them accomplished and what they were going to do for the world. I’ll save the specifics to myself as it’s not my place to share. He loved his wife. I think he looked up to her. He was such a good example.
Over the course of a year, I had made some really close friends. Steve and I remained close because even after our classes were done, I got to see him all the time, dropping off his daughter at the theater.
One day, he pulled me aside and said “I think I’m going to open up my own theater. I really enjoy being in shows and my daughter really enjoys it too. I want to spend more time with my kids and this theater might be a way to do it.” I thought it was a fun idea and encouraged it. He was taking on a business partner that had been doing this for a very long time and I knew the two of them would shine. Sara Perry and Steve Dubin opened Center Stage Performing Arts Theater; Sick Puppies Comedy current home. But we didn’t go there directly.
We were looking to move to a new home as well and were recruited by Steve’s best friend up in Delray. So we temporarily made the move there. Steve was never upset or offended by the fact we didn’t go to Center Stage at first. It’s like he knew that we would end up with his theater eventually. He was patient like that. After a few months in our new situation, I called Steve and Sara, checking out our options and upon my first visit, I was blown away. Steve said “welcome home”.
Sick Puppies Comedy would not exist today if wasn’t for Center Stage Theater and the encouragement of Steve Dubin and the support of Sara Perry. I remember in the beginning, all 4 of us (Allie too) were just trying to figure this thing out. I had a degree in theater management, Steve was a sales manager, Sara and Allie clearly had the experience and we all had passion.
Some of the most fun I ever had was in meetings with Steve. The two of us trying to figure out ways to drum up business, drive traffic and build our companies separately and together. It was a real struggle for him. He was working a full time job that was beginning to have some success and he was facing the same debate I faced: choose one or the other. Eventually, it was clear that his career was going to take over and I didn’t get to see Steve as much. In fact, very seldom. The last time we spent quality time together was probably 6 months ago. We ordered lunch. We caught up. Business was good for him. His wife was doing great things at her job. The kids were succeeding.
We passed each other far less after that. His daughter didn’t need her Dad to escort her out. He could just wait in the car for her. I’d catch him for 5 minutes here and there and we would always say “we have to catch up”. We didn’t. Steve was a guy with no enemies. It’s hard to be mad at the guy that always gives everything away. “Here”, “no, I got this.”, “No Casey, you deserve full price.” He took responsibility when things were his fault and took responsibility when it wasn’t. He was honest. He was one of the few truly genuine, kind people that this planet is going to miss. I am a better person because of Steve Dubin and if you’ve ever felt like one of our classes or shows had a positive effect on you, it’s because of Steve’s influence on us.
We are devastated and empty. Normally when I read these things, they end it with “hug your loved ones” or “tell people you love them”. I’ll make it really specific. Go look at your phone right now. Navigate away from this article if you need to and find the first person in your contacts that makes you think “I haven’t talked to this person in a while. I should call them.” and call them. Just one person. Just one call. I know I will be doing a lot of that in the coming months. We love you Steve. You were One Sick Puppy. And damn funny.