Terrence McNally

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Terrence McNally

Birthplace: St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida, United States
Death: March 24, 2020 (81)
1700 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Sarasota County, Florida, 34239, United States (COVID-19)
Immediate Family:

Son of Hubert Arthur McNally, Jr. and Dorothy K. McNally
Husband of Tom Kirdahy
Brother of Private

Occupation: Playwright, Librettist
Managed by: Erica Howton
Last Updated:

About Terrence McNally

Terrence McNally (November 3, 1938 – March 24, 2020) was an American playwright, librettist, and screenwriter.

Described as "the bard of American theater" and "one of the greatest contemporary playwrights the theater world has yet produced", McNally was the recipient of the 2019 Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement, the 2019 Dramatists Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Lucille Lortel Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2018, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the highest recognition of artistic merit in the United States. In 1996, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1996.

He received the Tony Award for Best Play for Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class, as well as the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for Kiss of the Spider Woman and Ragtime. His other accolades included an Emmy Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Grant, four Drama Desk Awards, two Lucille Lortel Awards, two Obie Awards, and three Hull-Warriner Awards.

McNally, who had previously overcome lung cancer, died on March 24, 2020 from complications of Coronavirus disease 2019 (during the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic). With his death, McNally becomes the nation’s highest profile victim of COVID-19 to date.

The playwright leaves a legacy, as he put it, of "slowly changing people's minds by changing their hearts first." "To me, the most significant thing a writer can do is reach someone emotionally," said McNally. "Theater is an emotional medium, and [through it] we've expanded people's acceptance of our fellow man. And this is what you write for, to reach other people."


  • Son of Hubert and Dorothy (Rapp) McNally, two transplanted New Yorkers who ran a seaside bar and grill called The Pelican Club.
  • McNally was partnered to Tom Kirdahy, a Broadway producer and a former civil rights attorney for not-for-profit AIDS organizations, following a civil union ceremony in Vermont on December 20, 2003. AncestryImage. They subsequently married in Washington, D.C. on April 6, 2010. In celebration of the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, they renewed their vows at New York City Hall with Mayor Bill de Blasio officiating on June 26, 2015.


Playwright. He was a prolific, award-winning writer with 25 Broadway productions, nearly 40 plays and 10 musicals, whose work spanned from comedy to drama and from avant-garde to the mainstream. McNally won five Tony Awards for such productions as 'Kiss of the Spider-Woman,' 'Master Class,' 'Ragtime' and 'Love! Valour! Compassion!.' Born Michael Terrence McNally to theater-loving parents, he was raised in Corpus Christie, Texas, where he got to see Ethel Merman in 'Annie Get Your Gun' when he was 6 or 7. He was introduced to opera through one of the nuns at school, and he would spend his Saturday afternoons watching TV's 'Live From the Met' and staging operas in the family garage. He began writing in high school and ended up studying journalism at Columbia College in New York. After graduation in 1960, he worked as a stage manager at the Actors Studio, then accepted an offer from John Steinbeck in 1961 to travel with the author around the world for a year as a tutor for his two teenage sons. Steinbeck would become a valued mentor. McNally's first produced full-length play, 'The Side of the Door,' ran at the Actors Studio Workshop in 1962. Three years later, his first original play on Broadway, 'And Things That Go Bump in the Night,' about a dysfunctional family, opened to brutal reviews and lasted less than two weeks. During the 70s, McNally wrote many plays, including 'Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone,' 'Bad Habits' and 'The Ritz', which earned him his first Drama Desk Award nomination. McNally's first Broadway musical was 1984's 'The Rink,' however his first break into the mainstream came in 1987 with his off-Broadway hit 'Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,' for which he also wrote the screenplay for the 1991 film 'Frankie and Johnny,' that starred Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. He won his first Tony in 1993 for his book for the musical 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' and followed with trophies for 'Love! Valour! Compassion!' in '95, 'Master Class' in '96 and 'Ragtime' in '98. In 1994, he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for drama for 'A Perfect Ganesh' and given a special Tony for lifetime achievement that same year. Between 1999 and 2015, he wrote lyrics for four operas. McNally, who battled lung cancer since the late 1990s, which cost him portions of both lungs, died from complications from the coronavirus.

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Terrence McNally's Timeline

November 3, 1938
St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida, United States
March 24, 2020
Age 81
Sarasota, Sarasota County, Florida, United States