Renowned American playwright Terrence McNally has died at the age of 81 due to complications from COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that is currently creating a global pandemic.
McNally died Tuesday, March 24, at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida, according to Deadline. The announcement came from McNally’s spokesperson, press agent Matt Polk, who also said that McNally suffered from chronic inflammatory lung disease.
McNally was born in St. Petersburg, Florida, but grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas. His father was a beer distributor and his mother was a homemaker. But they were both native New Yorkers and frequently took him on trips there to see Broadway productions, according to the Washington Post, which is what sparked his love of the theatre arts. Here is what else you need to know about McNally.
McNally Was a Tony-Winning Playwright
McNally is an award-winning playwright who was called “one of the greatest contemporary playwrights the theater world has yet produced” by the New York Observer during his 20th Broadway production in 2014. He has written over 30 plays, 10 musicals, four operas, four screenplays, and several TV projects.
He won the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical in 1993 for Kiss of the Spider Woman, Best Play for Love! Valour! Compassion! in 1995, Best Play for Master Class in 1996, and Best Book of a Musical for Ragtime in 1998. He was subsequently nominated for two more Tony Awards for The Full Monty and The Visit and received a special Tony Award lifetime achievement honor in 2019.
He is Survived by His Husband Tom Kirdahy
According to an interview with Howlround, McNally met his husband, theater producer Tom Kirdahy, in 2001 when Kirdahy hosted a panel of playwrights in the Hamptons with McNally, Edward Albee, and Landford Wilson. The interview reads, “Albee told the crowd that to celebrate his birthday, he had taken a swim with a school of dolphins, and described what it was like to touch them. Kirdahy made a face; McNally laughed at it. A month later, they started dating.”
In a 2017 interview with the New York Times, Kirdahy said it wasn’t quite love at first sight… but it was close.
“When I first saw him, I thought he was completely adorable. It sounds cliché, but his eyes just smiled. I can’t say it was love at first sight, but I knew I wanted to get to know him more,” Kirdahy told the newspaper, and McNally echoed his sentiments, saying, ““I was immediately struck by [Tom]. It was mystical, emotional and spiritual. I thought, ‘This guy is really special, I like him.’”
According to Deadline, McNally is also survived by his brother Peter and sister-in-law Vicky, a nephew named Stephen, a niece named Kylie and other extended family members.
McNally Is a Lung Cancer Survivor
In a 2019 interview with The Columbian, McNally spoke about his longtime smoking habit. He was up to three packs a day when he was 40 years old, but he eventually quit, which he says was “very hard” To do. And he thought that after 20 years of not smoking, he had dodged the lung cancer bullet. But he was diagnosed at the age of 60, which made him start to see every day as a “treat and a blessing.”
“You get 20 years and you think you dodged that bullet. But I hadn’t,” said McNally. “I’m dealing with lung cancer, so every day is a treat and a blessing … My father died of lung cancer, and it used to be a diagnosis of lung cancer meant you were dead in six months. Now here I am 20 years later, managing it.”
McNally received his diagnosis shortly after meeting his future husband. Kirdahy told the New York Times that overcoming that obstacle showed him what love truly was.
“My husband’s health and well-being has become the most important thing to me. I’m not sure I knew I was capable of that feeling prior to this relationship. I learned that the words ‘Till death do us part’ meant more to me than I ever thought they could. That love can be that intense. The commitment to another person’s well-being has been the greatest honor,” said Kirdahy, adding, “Terrence is cancer-free and very healthy today, and that means everything to me. I didn’t know I was capable of loving someone so deeply. That I would ever get to experience that feeling. I’ve learned that it’s real. That the intensity and longevity and joy of love are real.”