Four-time Tony-winning playwright and librettist Terrence McNally has died of complications due to coronavirus. He was 81.
McNally died today at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Fla. He is survived by his husband, Broadway producer Thomas Kirdahy.
The American theater legend had been battling with lung cancer since the late 1990s, and the disease cost him portions of both lungs, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “He had since lived with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” the outlet reports.
Much of McNally’s work explored the gay experience and the AIDS crisis, including Love! Valour! Compassion! and The Ritz, both of which he adapted into feature films.
McNally stirred up significant controversy in 1997 with his play Corpus Christi, which depicted Jesus and his disciples as gay, and received numerous death threats. His other notable works include Mothers and Sons, The Lisbon Traviata, and Lips Together, Teeth Apart. He also wrote the books for hit Broadway musicals such as Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime, The Full Monty, and Anastasia.
McNally married Kirdahy in 2010. In celebration of the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, they renewed their vows in 2015 with Mayor Bill de Blasio officiating.
“Terrence McNally is one of the first people that I came across as a gay man who was writing about gay people,” Billy Porter said in Every Act of Life, a 2018 documentary about McNally. “We stand on his shoulders.”
While McNally often wrote about gay themes and characters, he rejected being called a “gay playwright.”
“Gay theater doesn’t exist anymore,” he wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 1996. “There is good theater and there is bad theater. Gay playwrights either write a play as worthy of your interest as Mr. Arthur Miller or they don’t. You can’t get away with a bad gay play any more than you can with serving up lousy food in a gay restaurant.”