Playwright Terrence McNally, a four-time Tony Award winner, died Tuesday at the age of 81 from complications to the coronavirus.
He was a lung cancer survivor who lived with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Throughout his career, he created richly layered stories that often explored the LGBTQ experience: Love! Valour! Compassion!, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Full Monty, The Ritz, Mothers and Sons.
His work validated and humanized our experiences.
Other McNally plays and musicals include The Rink, Master Class, Ragtime, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,The Lisbon Traviata, Lips Together, Teeth Apart, A Perfect Ganesh (Pulitzer Prize nomination), The Visit and Anastasia.
For his acclaimed efforts, he was honored by the Tony Awards with Best Book of a Musical for both Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1992 and Ragtime in 1998; and Best Play for both Love! Valour! Compassion in 1995 and Master Class in 1996.
He also received 3 Drama Desk Awards for Love! Valour! Compassion, Master Class and Ragtime.
In 2019, he received a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.
While he wasn’t fond of being called a “gay playwright,” since much of his material wasn’t limited to gay material, it is a topic he visited often.
In a preface to the published version of Love! Valour! Compassion!, he wrote, “I think I wanted to write about what it’s like to be a gay man at this particular moment in our history.”
“I think I wanted to tell my friends how much they’ve meant to me,” he added. “I think I wanted to tell everyone else who we are when they aren’t around. I think I wanted to reach out and let more people into those places in my heart where I don’t ordinarily welcome strangers.”
For even more insight into the personal life of McNally, please make sure to add the recent documentary of his life, Every Act of Life, to your viewing playlist.
In that my time living in New York City as a working actor coincided with McNally’s heyday, it’s with great fondness that I remember seeing nearly all of the NY productions listed above.
Funny, life-affirming, and deeply human – that’s how I view the emotional landscapes created by McNally. To this day, I believe Ragtime is easily one of the greatest American musicals to arrive on Broadway.
I saw my own life in his plays. I vividly remember having to stifle sobbing when I heard Nathan Lane, during a performance of Love! Valour! Compassion! ask, “Who will be there to hold my hand when I let go?”
My husband worked with McNally on several projects over the years. At the end of each, Michael would receive a hand-written ‘thank you’ note that the word gracious can’t begin to describe.
Rest in power, Terrence McNally.
My dear sweet brilliant kind Terrence. The world is not nearly as sweet of a place without you in it. My heart is breaking yet again. 💔
Terrence McNally Dead: Tony-Winning Playwright Dies of Coronavirus – Variety https://t.co/IDQPbS80ml
— Audra McDonald (@AudraEqualityMc) March 24, 2020
A huge part of me is gone. But then it’s not. Terrence wouldn’t like that. He helped to make me who I am as a person. He is the epitome of love and friendship. Only God knows how much I will miss him. 💔🙏💋 pic.twitter.com/qItUOWkEqI
— Chita Rivera (@Chita_Rivera) March 24, 2020
Heartbroken over the loss of Terrence McNally, a giant in our world, who straddled plays and musicals deftly. Grateful for his staggering body of work and his unfailing kindness.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) March 24, 2020
My first acting award at a one-act festival in high school. My first Tony nomination was for Full Monty. Both shows written by Terrence McNally. He had a monumental impact on my career and will be missed. Rest In Peace, my friend. #RIPTerrenceMcNally
— patrick wilson (@patrickwilson73) March 24, 2020
I am devastated hear about Mr McNally. A true legend. A true gentleman. I am so grateful my path crossed with him for a period of time. – Playwright Terrence McNally, Tony-Winning Playwright, Dies of Coronavirus – Variety https://t.co/4rHFYweYsy
— Ramin Karimloo (@raminkarimloo) March 24, 2020
My Broadway debut. THE RITZ by the late, great Terrence McNally. A pioneer. A true man of the theater. All his comedy had pathos. And boy, did he love musicals. He made his mark. And he will be missed. pic.twitter.com/KTKR1S4BQm
— Seth Rudetsky (@SethRudetsky) March 24, 2020
We lost a great artist today. I worked for and with Terrence McNally twice in my life and they were two of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. His work was vital, intense, hysterical and rare. My hope is that he will inspire writers for years to come. #RIPTerrenceMcNally
— jason alexander (@IJasonAlexander) March 24, 2020
Terrence McNally was one of the founding fathers of @BCEFA. Truly among the greatest playwrights in #Broadway history, Terrence gave voice to both the voiceless and those who can stand tall, not only through his art but also his actions. pic.twitter.com/szAFZn7G42
— Broadway Cares (@BCEFA) March 24, 2020