Terrence McNally: Playwright dies of coronavirus complications


Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally has died in Florida of complications from coronavirus, according to his husband Tom Kirdahy.

The four-time Tony winner, 81, was known for his thoughtful chronicles of gay life, homophobia, love and AIDS.

McNally was a lung cancer survivor and had lived with a chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.

One of America’s great playwrights, he wrote more than three dozen plays in his nearly 60-year career.

Beginning on Broadway in 1963, McNally still had his name up in lights until last year’s revival of his play Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, starring Audra McDonald.

“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,” he told the LA Stage Times in 2013.

“A lot of people stop learning in life, and that’s their tragedy.”

Playwright Terrence McNally

Broadway and New York theatres – the institutions where McNally made his mark – have been closed for more than a week due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Born in St Petersburg, Florida, McNally grew up in Texas before attending Columbia University in New York.

He died in hospital in Sarasota, Florida, on Tuesday, his representative told US media.

He leaves behind his husband. The pair were joined in a civil union in 2003 in Vermont and married in 2010 in Washington, DC.

McNally’s career – often tackling themes and subjects widely seen as controversial – was not without its stumbles.

His first Broadway play And Things That Go Bump in the Night, written when he was just 24, was panned – Newsday called it “ugly, perverted, tasteless” – and closed in less than three weeks.

Speaking to Vogue magazine in 1995, McNally said he would “win, hands down, the contest for worst first-place reviews – or any-play reviews”.

But McNally persevered, going on to write dozens of plays, almost a dozen musicals and multiple operas.

He received a lifetime achievement award at the 2019 Tony Awards.

Standing before the crowd, with breathing tubes visible over his tuxedo, he joked that the accolade came “not a moment too soon”.

“Theatre changes hearts, that secret place where we all truly live,” he said at the ceremony.

“The world needs artists more than ever to remind us what truth and beauty and kindness really are.”


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