Legendary Gay Playwright Terrence McNally Has Died from COVID-19 Complications

Legendary gay playwright, Terrence McNally died Tuesday from complications of the coronavirus, at age 81.

Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein said on Facebook: Broken hearted to read this. Terrence, after fighting so long and bravely against illness, has succumbed to a complication from Corona virus. But let’s always remember that Terrence was anything but a victim. He was a lover and fighter and an artist and a voice for our people. He was a victor. The man didn’t write his heart out. He wrote OUR hearts out! Whether he was making us laugh with The Ritz,  or cry with Corpus Christie, or gave us a little of each with Love, Valor, Compassion! he was true to his vision.”

The Los Angeles Times reports: “McNally earned his first Broadway writing credit at age 23 and continued steadily from there into his 30s, establishing a reputation as an edgy and talented playwright and farceur who consistently challenged and mocked authority during the Vietnam War era. But McNally’s streak of signature plays — the ones that won him awards and brought him to the front rank of American playwriting — didn’t begin until 1987, the year he turned 48. Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune (1987), The Lisbon Traviata (1989), Lips Together, Teeth Apart, (1991) A Perfect Ganesh (1993), Love! Valour! Compassion! (1994) and Master Class (1995) may not qualify as landmarks with near-universal recognition and acclaim among theater lovers — as has been the case with the best works of some of McNally’s more famed contemporaries, such as Edward Albee, August Wilson, Tony Kushner, David Mamet and Sam Shepard. But the plays he wrote during his extended creative high tide were funny, warm, poignant, life-affirming and popular.”

The New York Times reports: Mr. McNally recalled an encounter at Stephen Sondheim’s 50th-birthday party in 1980 that helped him shed a personal demon, a turning point in his playwriting. He was drinking heavily at the time and had been for years. “Then someone I hardly knew, Angela Lansbury, waved me over to where she was sitting,” he said. “And she said, ‘I just want to say, I don’t know you very well, but every time I see you, you’re drunk, and it bothers me.’ I was so upset. She was someone I revered, and she said this with such love and concern. I went to an A.A. meeting, and within a year, I had stopped drinking.”

McNally is survived by his partner Tom Kirdahy.

 

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