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Terrence McNally, Playwright, Five-Time Tony Recipient, Dies of Coronavirus Complications at 81

Junie Sihlangu
Mar 25, 2020
07:18 A.M.
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On Tuesday, Hollywood lost one of the greatest contemporary playwrights in the theater. Terrence McNally passed away at the age of 81 due to complications from the coronavirus.

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At the time of his death, McNally was being treated at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. His death was confirmed by his publicist Matt Polk.

The playwright had been a lung cancer survivor who suffered from another illness. He was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Terrence McNally appears in a portrait taken in his home on March 2, 2020, in New York City | Photo: Al Pereira/Getty Images

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McNally’s first Broadway play

The inflammatory lung disease causes obstruction in airflow from the lungs. McNally had a career that spanned over six decades.

He was famous for writing a series of plays, musicals, operas, films, and television projects. In 1964, McNally produced his first Broadway work with “And Things That Go Bump in the Night.”

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Some of his other works

The play wasn’t well-received by theater critics because of its open depiction of homosexuality. The failure didn’t discourage the playwright who went on to show the gay experience in more than 30 more plays.

Some of his work includes “The Ritz” (1975), “Lips Together,” “Teeth Apart” (1991), “Love! Valour! Compassion!” (1995), “Corpus Christi” (1998), and “Mother and Sons” (2014). The star was also a collaborator for writing books to musicals.

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His first credited Broadway musical

In 1984, he had his first credited Broadway musical called “The Rink.” On this project, he collaborated with composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb.

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Terrence’s many accolades

McNally has won four Tony Awards, Emmy’s, and a lifetime achievement Tony in 2019. Two of his Tony’s were for books for musicals, “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1993), and “Ragtime” (1998).

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Putting homosexual lives onstage

The other two were for the plays “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and “Master Class” (1996). The first play was about gay men who share a vacation house while the second one was starred the opera diva, Maria Callas, who reflects on her career.

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Mourned by many

McNally’s passing was mourned by many celebrities like “Hamilton‘s” Lin-Manuel Miranda, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding‘s” Nia Vardalos, and Patrick Wilson who starred in McNally’s “The Full Monty” on Broadway. The late playwright is survived by his husband Tom Kirdahy, his brother Peter, and nephew Stephen, among other family members.

Donations can be made in his memory to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids and the Dramatist Guild Foundation.

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