Terrence McNally

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Terrence McNally
TerrenceMcNally.jpg
Born(1938-11-03) November 3, 1938 (age 75)
St. Petersburg, Florida, U.S.
OccupationPlaywright, librettist
Period1964–present
Spouse(s)Thomas Kirdahy (April 6, 2010–present)
 
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Terrence McNally
TerrenceMcNally.jpg
Born(1938-11-03) November 3, 1938 (age 75)
St. Petersburg, Florida, U.S.
OccupationPlaywright, librettist
Period1964–present
Spouse(s)Thomas Kirdahy (April 6, 2010–present)

Terrence McNally (born November 3, 1938) is an American playwright who has received four Tony Awards, an Emmy Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Grant, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Hull-Warriner Award, and a citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.[1] Several of his plays have been turned into successful movies.[2]

Many of McNally's plays deal with gay themes, and he believes that theatre has made important contributions to the present day acceptance of gay people as full and equal members of society. Although he laughs off the existence of a "Gay Mafia" he says, "... fortunately, there are a lot of writers, like myself, who are slowly changing people’s minds by changing their hearts first."[2]

He has been a member of the Council of the Dramatists Guild since 1970 and served as vice-president from 1981 to 2001. McNally was partnered to Thomas Kirdahy following a civil union ceremony in Vermont in 2003,[3] and they subsequently married in Washington, D.C. on April 6, 2010.[4]

Early life[edit]

Born in St. Petersburg, Florida and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, McNally moved to New York City in 1956 to attend Columbia University, where he majored in English and wrote Columbia's annual Varsity Show, graduating in 1960, the same year in which he gained membership into the Phi Beta Kappa Society. He worked briefly for the alumni magazine Columbia College Today.

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

After graduation, McNally moved to Mexico to focus on his writing, completing a one-act play which he submitted to the Actors Studio in New York for production. While the play was turned down by the acting school, the Studio was impressed with the script, and McNally was invited to serve as the Studio's stage manager so that he could gain practical knowledge of theater. In his early years in New York, he was the partner of the noted playwright Edward Albee. McNally was also a partner to actor Robert Drivas.

In 1964, his first play And Things That Go Bump in the Night opened at the Royale Theatre to generally negative reviews. McNally later said, "My first play, 'Things That Go Bump in the Night', was a big flop. I had to begin all over again."[2] Nevertheless the production ran to sold-out houses for three weeks after the producer lowered the price of tickets to one and two dollars. In 1968, McNally asked that his name be removed from the credits for the musical Here's Where I Belong. His decision proved to be a wise one, as the show closed after one performance. Although several early comedies such as Next in 1969 and Witness, Sweet Eros, and Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone? were successful off-Broadway, McNally would only become truly successful with works such as the off-Broadway production of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune and its screen adaptation with stars Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer, and with two Broadway productions, Bad Habits and The Ritz.

Later career[edit]

His first credited Broadway musical was The Rink in 1984, a project he entered after the score by composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb had been written. In 1990, McNally won an Emmy Award for Best Writing in a Miniseries or Special for Andre's Mother, a drama about a woman trying to cope with her son's death from AIDS. A year later, he returned to the stage with another AIDS-related play, Lips Together, Teeth Apart. In the play, two married couples spend the Fourth of July weekend at a summer house on Fire Island. The house has been willed to Sally Truman by her brother who has just died of AIDS, and it soon becomes evident that both couples are afraid to get in the swimming pool once used by Sally's brother. It was written specifically for Christine Baranski, Anthony Heald, Swoosie Kurtz (taking the place of Kathy Bates), and frequent McNally collaborator, Nathan Lane, who had also starred in The Lisbon Traviata.[5][6]

With Kiss of the Spider Woman (based on the novel by Manuel Puig) in 1992, McNally returned to the musical stage, collaborating with Kander and Ebb on a script which explores the complex relationship between two men jailed together in a Latin American prison. For the book, McNally won the first of his 4 Tony Awards. Kiss of the Spider Woman won the 1993 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical. He collaborated with Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens on Ragtime in 1997, a musical adaptation of the E.L. Doctorow novel, which tells the story of Coalhouse Walker Jr., a black musician who demands retribution when his Model T is destroyed by a mob of white troublemakers. The musical also features such historical figures as Harry Houdini, Booker T. Washington, J.P. Morgan, and Henry Ford. For his libretto, McNally won his 3rd Tony Award. Ragtime finished its Broadway run on January 16, 2000. A revival production in 2009 was short-lived, closing after only 2 months.[7]

McNally's other plays include 1994's Love! Valour! Compassion!, with Lane and John Glover, which examines the relationships of eight gay men; it won McNally his 2nd Tony Award. Master Class (1995); a character study of legendary opera soprano Maria Callas, which starred Zoe Caldwell and won the Tony for Best Play, McNally's 4th; and the least-known of the group, Dedication or The Stuff of Dreams, with Lane and Marian Seldes.

In 1996, McNally was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[8]

In 1997, McNally stirred up a storm of controversy with Corpus Christi, a modern day retelling of the story of Jesus' birth, ministry, and death in which both he and his disciples are portrayed as homosexual. In fact, the play was initially canceled because of death threats against the board members of the Manhattan Theatre Club which was to produce the play. However, several other playwrights such as Athol Fugard threatened to withdraw their plays if Corpus Christi was not produced, and the board finally relented. When the play opened, the theatre was besieged by almost 2,000 protesters, furious at what they considered blasphemy. When Corpus Christi opened in London, a group called the Defenders of the Messenger Jesus issued a fatwa sentencing McNally to death.[9]

On January 19, 2008, Robert Forsyth, Anglican bishop of South Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, condemned Corpus Christi (which opened for February's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, a play depicting Judas seducing Jesus): "It is deliberately, not innocently, offensive and they're obviously having a laugh about it." The play showed Jesus administrating a marriage between two male apostles. Director Leigh Rowney accepted that it would offend some Christians and said: "I wanted this play in the hands of a Christian person like myself to give it dignity but still open it up to answering questions about Christianity as a faith system."[10]

McNally's drama Deuce ran on Broadway in a limited engagement in 2007 for 121 performances. Directed by Michael Blakemore, the play starred Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes.

The Kennedy Center presented three of McNally's plays that focus on his works involving opera, titled Nights at the Opera in March 2010. The pieces included a new play, Golden Age; Master Class, starring Tyne Daly; and The Lisbon Traviata, starring John Glover and Malcolm Gets.[11][12][13]

McNally has collaborated on several operas, including the libretto for Dead Man Walking, his adaptation of Sister Helen Prejean's book, with a score by Jake Heggie. In 2007, Heggie composed a chamber opera, Three Decembers, based on original text by McNally titled Some Christmas Letters (and a Couple of Phone Calls, Too),[14] with libretto by Gene Scheer.[15] In November 2015, Dallas Opera will present Great Scott with an original libretto by McNally and a score by Heggie.

And Away We Go, premiered Off-Broadway at the Pearl Theatre in November 2013, with direction by Jack Cummings III and featuring Donna Lynne Champlin, Sean McNall and Dominic Cuskern.[16]

Mothers and Sons starring Tyne Daly and Frederick Weller opened on Broadway at the Golden Theatre, where Master Class had its premiere, on March 24, 2014 (February 23, 2014 in previews).[17] Mothers and Sons premiered at the Bucks County Playhouse (Pennsylvania) in June 2013.[18]

Writing credits[edit]

Plays:

Musical Theatre:

Opera:

Film:

TV:

Awards[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes
  1. ^ "And Then One Night, The Making of Dead Man Walking: Creative Process: The Players: Terrence McNally: Biography". PBS. Retrieved 2007-04-19. 
  2. ^ a b c Playwright Terrence McNally: 'The Most Significant Thing a Writer Can Do Is Reach Someone Emotionally', Parade Magazine, March 24, 2014
  3. ^ "WEDDINGS/CELEBRATIONS; Terrence McNally, Thomas Kirdahy". New York Times. 2003-12-21. Retrieved 2007-04-19. 
  4. ^ "Reliable Source - Love, etc.: Playwright Terrence McNally weds partner in D.C.". Washington Post. 2010-04-06. 
  5. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn. "Terrence McNally's Four Stars Talk Happily of His 'Lips Together'" The New York Times, July 3, 1991
  6. ^ "The Story" dramatists.com, accessed March 26, 2014
  7. ^ "The Sondheim Review: Mutual admiration, Sondheim and playwright Terrence McNally began a collaboration in 1991, by Raymond-Jean Frontain readperiodicals.com, April 1, 2011
  8. ^ "Theatre Hall of Fame 1996". www.playbill.com. 
  9. ^ "Fatwa for 'gay Jesus' writer". BBC News. 1999-10-29. Retrieved 2007-04-19. 
  10. ^ Afp.google.com, "Row erupts in Australia over 'gay' Jesus play: report" afp.google.com
  11. ^ Hetrick, Adam."Casting Complete for Master Class, with Daly, at the Kennedy Center" playbill.com, February 2, 2010
  12. ^ Hetrick, Adam."Glover and Gets Open McNally's 'Lisbon Traviata' in Washington, D.C. March 25" playbill.com, March 25, 2010
  13. ^ Hetrick, Adam."All That Glitters: Bobbie Talks About McNally's Golden Age at the Kennedy Center" playbill.com, March 29, 2010
  14. ^ "Terrence McNally Pens NYC Holiday 'Letters' for Dec. 13-14 Benefit Concert" playbill.com
  15. ^ Zinko, Carolyne (December 7, 2008). "S.F. Opera To Adapt 'Dead Man'/Heggie-McNally work commissioned for 2000-01". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  16. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "World Premiere of Terrence McNally's 'And Away We Go' Opens Off-Broadway Nov. 24" playbill.com, November 24, 2013
  17. ^ Staff. "The Verdict: Critics Review Terrence McNally's 'Mothers and Sons', Starring Tyne Daly" playbill.com, March 25, 2014
  18. ^ Gioia, Michael. "Tyne Daly and Frederick Weller Explore Relationships of 'Mothers and Sons', Beginning Feb. 23 On Broadway" playbill.com, February 23, 2014
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