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Tributes pour in for award-winning gay playwright Terrence McNally after death from coronavirus

Nick Duffy March 25, 2020
Terrence McNally and Tom Kirdahy attend the 73rd Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 09, 2019 in New York City.

Terrence McNally and Tom Kirdahy attend the 73rd Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 09, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Playwright Terrence McNally is being mourned by the theatre community after his death from coronavirus at the age of 81.

The Tony-winning playwright dedicated much of his career to depicting gay lives on stage, and was known for works including Andre’s Mother, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Love! Valour! Compassion!.

His agent confirmed that McNally, who had chronic inflammatory lung disease, had died from coronavirus complications on March 24.

McNally is survived by his husband Tom Kirdahy, also a Broadway producer.

Terrence McNally dedicated his life to telling queer stories.

His death comes just a year after McNally was honoured with the lifetime achievement award at the 2019 Tony Awards.

In his speech, he said: “I love being a playwright. The hours are flexible, and you don’t have to wear a tie unless you’re invited to the Tonys.”

Playwright Terrence McNally and theatrical producer Tom Kirdahy in their home on March 2, 2020 in New York City.
Playwright Terrence McNally and theatrical producer Tom Kirdahy in their home on March 2, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

He continued: “I love it when I know something I wrote softened the parents who had banished their son and daughter from their lives when they came out to them as gay and lesbian.

“I love it when I remember the artists who tried to help us understand the devastation of AIDS, even when they were stricken with it themselves.

“I love it when I remember that theatre changes hearts, that secret place where we all live.”

Tributes paid to ‘steadfast champion’ of LGBT+ rights.

McNally also played a role in setting up Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS which has raised money for those impacted by the AIDS crisis since 1988.

Broadway Cares said: “Terrence McNally was one of the founding fathers of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Truly among the greatest playwrights in Broadway history, Terrence gave voice to both the voiceless and those who can stand tall, not only through his art but also his actions.

“He was a steadfast champion for civil and LGBTQ rights onstage and off. He gave us unforgettable characters who told delicate, brilliant, courageous and unforgettable stories that reflected the lives and dreams, joys and heartbreak of us all.

“Terrence believed the most important function of theatre is to create community. We are so lucky that he included Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS in his own community by championing us and our work right from the start. He was a loyal and true friend. A champion and member of our Board of Trustees since our earliest days.”

BCEFA added: “Thank you, Terrence. Our hearts are with you and reach out to console your husband and our dear friend, Tom Kirdahy.”

Paying tribute, George Takei wrote: “Terrence McNally was a legend among legends on Broadway. If you are an actor, there’s a good chance you have performed one of his works. If not, you surely will in your career, he was that prolific and gifted. Ah, my heart breaks at the news!”

Audra McDonald added: “My dear sweet brilliant kind Terrence. The world is not nearly as sweet of a place without you in it. My heart is breaking yet again.”

More: Broadway, Coronavirus, COVID-19, george takei, Terrence McNally

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