11-03-1939

Terence McNally with Tom Kirdahy

TERENCE MCNALLY, American Playwright, born;an American playwright considered one of the leading American dramatists still writing today. In addition to four Tony Awards, McNally has received 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. He has been a member of the Council of the Dramatists Guild since 1970 and has served as vice-president since 1981. McNally is married to playwright Thomas Kirdahy.

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 HIV-AIDS. A y ear later, he returned to the stage with another AIDS-related play Lips Together, Teeth Apart, a study of the irrational fears many people harbor towards homosexuals and people who have the disease. 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.

With Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1992, McNally returned to the musical stage, collaborating with Kander and Ebb on a script which explores the complex relationship between two men caged together in a Latin American prison. 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 fiery black piano man who demands retribution when his Model T is destroyed by a mob of white troublemakers. The play also features such historical figures as Harry Houdini, Booker, T. Washington, J.P.Morgan and Henry Ford.

McNally’s other plays include 1994’s Love! Valor! Compassion! which examines the relationships of eight Gay men; and Master Class (1995), a character study of legendary opera soprano Maria Callas which won the Tony for Best Play.

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 homosexuals. In fact, the play was initially cancelled because of death threats against the board members of the Manhattan Theater Club which was to produce the play. However, several other playwrights such as Tony Kushner threatened to withdraw their plays if Corpus Christi was not produced, and the board finally relented. When the play opened, the Theater was besieged by almost 2000 protesters, furious at what they considered blasphemy. When Corpus Christi opened in London, a British Muslim group called the Defenders of the Messenger Jesus even went so far as to issue a fatwa sentencing McNally to death.