Tony Award winning playwright Terrence McNally died March 24 in a Sarasota, Florida hospital at the age of 81 as a result of complications from the Covid-19 virus. His representative Matt Polk said that McNally was a survivor of lung cancer and suffered from chronic inflammatory lung disease.
McNally’s plays were about connection, love, homophobia, and AIDS.
McNally once spoke on his choice of collaborators saying, “I like to work with people who are a lot more talented and smarter than me, who make fewer mistakes than I do, and who can call me out when I do something lazy.”
McNally made his Broadway debut in 1963 with “The Lady of the Camellias”. He also wrote “And Things that Go Bump in the Night”, “Morning, Noon, and Night”, “Bad Habits”, “The Ritz”, “The Rink”, “Kiss of the Spider Woman”, “Love!, Valour! Compassion!”, “Master Class”, “Ragtime”, “The Full Monty”, “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”, “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life”, “Deuce”, “Catch Me if You Can”, “Mothers and Sons”, “It’s Only a Play”, “The Visit”, “Anastasia”, and “Prince of Broadway”.
McNally also appeared as an actor in a handful of screen productions beginning with an episode of “ChiPS” in 1979. His other appearances were in “Salvage 1”, “Tenspeed and Brown Shoe”, “The Greatest American Hero”, “The Rousters” – movie and TV series, and as Dr. Robert Lynch in four episodes of “The Young and the Restless”.
Academy Award winning actor F. Murray Abraham said that McNally’s “plays are a pleasure to do.” Actor Conrad Ricamora spoke on McNally saying he is “the most kind, brilliant person to work with.” Late night talk show host James Corden called McNally, “an absolute gentleman and his commitment to the theater was unwavering.” Pulitzer Prize winning composer Tom Kitt called McNally, “irreplaceable”.
The four time Tony Award winner is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an Emmy Award, a two time Drama Desk Award winner, is a member of Phi Betta Kappa, was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Tony Awards and was presented with an honourary doctorate degree from New York University in 2019.
He was born on November 3, 1938 in St. Petersburg, Florida but grew up across the Gulf of Mexico in Corpus Christi, Texas where he discovered opera music when he was 10 years old. While in college at Columbia University, his room mate was New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio. He once served as a tutor and guardian to the sons of author John Steinbeck. Before becoming a successful playwright, McNally worked as a newspaper reporter, a tutor, and a stage manager at the Actors Studio.
Openly gay, McNally is survived by his husband of over 15 years Thomas Kirdahy, brother Peter, nephew Stephen, niece Kylie, mother-in-law Joan.
feature photo credit: By ReadingReed43 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49325489