Terrence McNally - Updated Dec 2023

Updated On September 28, 2023
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Terrence McNally

Terrence McNally was a famous American playwright, librettist, and screenwriter. Terrence McNally received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Tony Awards. Moreover, he also wrote books for musicals.

Early Life and Childhood

Terrence McNally was born on 3rd November 1938, in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA. He was born to Hubert Arthur and Dorothy Katharine (Rapp) McNally. McNally attended W.B. Ray High School.

In high school, he was encouraged to write by a gifted English teacher, Maurine McElroy. He enrolled at Columbia College in 1956. Moreover, he graduated in 1960 with a B.A. in English and membership in the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

McNally died at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida, on March 24, 2020, at the age of 81, from complications of coronavirus disease 2019 during the COVID-19 pandemic. He had previously overcome lung cancer in the late 1990s that cost him both portions of his lungs due to the disease, and he was living with COPD at the time of his death.

Terrence McNally

Caption: Terrence McNally’s before and after picture. Source: New York Post

Broadway playwright Terrence McNally dies of coronavirus!!

Terrence McNally is a Tony award-winning playwright. He was popular for plays like “Love! Valor! Compassion!” and for a musical version of “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” who died on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, of complications related to the coronavirus, his representative said. He died at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Additionally, he was a four-time Tony winner, 81 and he was famous 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. Further, he is one of America’s great playwrights. Therefore, he wrote more than three dozen plays in his nearly 60-year career.

“Theatre changes hearts, that secret place where we all truly live,” he spoke at the ceremony. “The world needs artists more than ever to remind us what truth and beauty and kindness are.”

Beginning on Broadway in 1963, McNally still had his name up in light until last year’s revival of his play Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, starring Audra McDonald. Tributes poured in from the theatre world on Tuesday. He told the LA Stage Times in 2013:

“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.”

More details

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. Peter Marks, the theatre critic at the Washington Post, tweeted; “This virus is taking great people away. He was a master with class.”

Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda said on Twitter he was heartbroken, calling McNally “a giant in our world, who straddled plays and musicals deftly”. Similarly, Former Rent star Anthony Rapp called him “a vital voice in American theatre, especially effective at lifting and amplifying the American LGBTQ experience”.

Professional Life

Terrence McNally is an American dramatist whose plays explore human relationships, frequently those of gay men, and are typically characterized by dark humor. He also wrote books for musicals. As a young man, McNally worked as a newspaper reporter, as a tutor for the children of the American novelist John Steinbeck, and as a stage manager at The Actors Studio.

Furthermore, his early plays included ‘Bad Habits’ (produced 1971), ‘The Ritz’ (originally produced as ‘The Tubs, 1973; film 1976), and ‘Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune’ (produced 1987; film 1991). In 1995, McNally won a Tony Award for best play, for ‘Love! Valor! Compassion!’ (film 1997), and he won another the following year for ‘Master Class’, one of several works he wrote about opera.

Terrence McNally is described as “the bard of American theater” and “one of the greatest contemporary playwrights the theater world has yet produced”, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1996. His Corpus Christi generated controversy upon its 1998 premiere for its depiction of a Christ-like character as homosexual. Similarly, among his later plays were Deuce, which opened on Broadway in 2007, and Golden Age, which followed in 2012.

More about his career

Moreover, in his show ‘Mothers and Sons (2014), McNally examined a mother coming to terms with her late son’s homosexuality and with society’s evolving understanding of what constitutes a family. Similarly, the ‘Fire and Air’ (2018) is about the Ballets Russes and founder Serge Diaghilev’s relationship with Vaslav Nijinsky.

His librettos for ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman’ and ‘Ragtime’ won him Tony Awards in 1993 and 1998, respectively. Additional credits as a librettist included ‘The Full Monty’ (produced 2000), ‘Catch Me if You Can’ (produced 2011), and ‘The Visit’ (produced 2001). Similarly, he earned an additional Tony nomination for a 2015 revival of the latter musical. And, four years later he received a Tony for lifetime achievement.

Likewise, David Yazbeck and his musical, “The Full Monty” at the Kokandy Productions Theatre in Chicago, Illinois were nominated for a 2015 Joseph Jefferson Non-Equity Award for Musical Production. “The Full Monty” was awarded the 2002 Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Award for Touring Production.

Similarly, McNally was also awarded the ‘1990 Drama Logue Award’ for Outstanding Writing for “The Lisbon Traviata” at the Mark Taper Forum Theatre in Los Angeles, California. And, McNally’s show, “Master Class” in a Gordon Davidson/Mark Taper Forum production at the Mark Taper Forum Theatre in Los Angeles, California was awarded the 1995 Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Award for Best Play.

Terrence McNally

Caption: Terrence McNally’s lifetime awards speech. Source: Los Angeles Times


The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin holds their papers of his and the archive carries all of his major works for the stage, screen, and television. As well as correspondence, posters, production photographs, programs, reviews, awards, speeches, and recordings. It is an open archive and continues to receive the latest material from McNally.


His Every Act of Life, a documentary about McNally’s life and career, aired on PBS on June 14, 2019. The film features new interviews with McNally. In addition to conversations with his friends and collaborators, including Tyne Daly, Edie Falco, John Kander, F.Murray Abraham, Nathan Lane, Angela Lansbury, Christine Baranski, Billy Porter, Chita Rivera, Marin Mazzie, Audra McDonald, Rita Moreno, Doris Roberts, John Slattery, and Patrick Wilson.

Plus the voices of Dan Bucatinsky, Bryan Cranston, and Meryl Streep. Charles McNulty, reviewing the film for the Los Angeles Times, wrote:

“If you can know a person by the company he keeps, you can judge a playwright by the talent that sticks by him. By this measure, he was one of the most important dramatists of the last 50 years.”

Terrence McNally – Personal Life

Terrence McNally’s partner was Tom Kirdahy. Terrence McNally is a Broadway producer and a former civil rights attorney for not-for-profit AIDS organizations. Moreover, he was also at a civil union ceremony in Vermont on December 20, 2003. They married in Washington, D.C. on April 6, 2010.

The lovers renewed their vows at New York City Hall with Mayor Bill de Blasio, Kirdahy’s college roommate. They officiated on June 26, 2015. They did so in celebration of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Moreover, he had a pair of blue eyes and had a great personality indeed.

Terrence McNally

Caption: Terrence McNally and his husband Tom Kirdahy click a photo. Source: AI Jazeera

Terrence McNally – Net Worth 2023

Terrence McNally might have earned a huge amount of money throughout his journey. However, McNally had a net worth of around $6 million.