The theater community is paying tribute to the Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally, who died Tuesday. He was 81.
The writer of numerous plays including “Lips Together, Teeth Apart” and “It’s Only a Play” — and also the librettist of musicals such as “Ragtime,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “The Full Monty” and “Anastasia” — died from complications related to the coronavirus. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2001 and twice underwent surgery.
“Heartbroken over the loss of Terrence McNally, a giant in our world, who straddled plays and musicals deftly,” tweeted “Hamilton” mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda upon learning of the news. “Grateful for his staggering body of work and his unfailing kindness.”
“He helped to make me who I am as a person,” tweeted Chita Rivera, who starred in both “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “The Visit,” two musicals for which McNally wrote the book. “He is the epitome of love and friendship. Only God knows how much I will miss him.”
Audra McDonald, who was on Broadway last year in McNally’s “Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune,” also tweeted, “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.”
“We lost a great artist today,” wrote actor Jason Alexander on Twitter. “I worked for and with Terrence McNally twice in my life and they were two of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. His work was vital, intense, hysterical and rare. My hope is that he will inspire writers for years to come.”
Fellow playwright Paula Vogel shared an expletive-laden tweet, directed at the coronavirus. “Just learned that it took Terrence McNally who has always been the soul of kindness. ... McNally’s plays will outlast you.”
Playwright Jeremy O. Harris did the same and added, “His kindness and candor were unmatched.”
Harvey Fierstein mourned how McNally died, but went on to praise how he lived. “Let’s always remember that Terrence was anything but a victim,” the actor and playwright wrote on Facebook. “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!”
Heartbroken over the loss of Terrence McNally, a giant in our world, who straddled plays and musicals deftly. Grateful for his staggering body of work and his unfailing kindness.— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) March 24, 2020
We lost a great artist today. I worked for and with Terrence McNally twice in my life and they were two of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. His work was vital, intense, hysterical and rare. My hope is that he will inspire writers for years to come. #RIPTerrenceMcNally— jason alexander (@IJasonAlexander) March 24, 2020
In the shadow of the AIDS epidemic, McNally, who was gay and in 2000 lost his longtime partner, Gary Bonasorte, to the disease, met the demands of that critical time with warm, Tony-winning works like “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and “Master Class.”
“His was a vital voice in American theatre, especially effective at lifting up and amplifying the American LGBTQ experience,” tweeted actor Anthony Rapp.
Harry Ford thanked McNally for his 2014 play “Mothers and Sons,” the first time a legally wed gay couple was portrayed on Broadway.
“You were the first to speak to my soul and to my being one of the special ones,” the actor tweeted. “Cal gave me permission to live in power and truth. Goodnight, Sweet Prince.”
Actor Ben Lewis also shared a personal story in tribute to McNally. “When I was a still (mostly) closeted 17 year old, I did a Terrence McNally monologue, playing an openly gay man, for all of my theatre school auditions.
“His plays gave me a glimpse @ the freer, better future I’m lucky to be living today — and for that, I’ll always be grateful.”
See more social media tributes below.
RIP #TerrenceMcNally, who died today from #coronavirus complications. His was a vital voice in American theatre, especially effective at lifting up and amplifying the American LGBTQ experience. My thoughts are with his husband and their loved ones. Take good care, all.— Anthony Rapp @🏡 (@albinokid) March 24, 2020
You were the first to speak to my soul and to my being one of the special ones, #TerrenceMcNally. Cal gave me permission to live in power and truth. Goodnight, Sweet Prince...— Harry Ford (@IAmHarryFord) March 24, 2020
When I was a still (mostly) closeted 17 year old, I did a Terrence McNally monologue, playing an openly gay man, for all of my theatre school auditions. His plays gave me a glimpse @ the freer, better future I’m lucky to be living today—and for that, I’ll always be grateful. #RIP https://t.co/nuOOZtjnnl— Ben Lewis (@benlewishere) March 24, 2020
Bless you, Terrence McNally. 💔— Michael Urie (@michaelurie) March 24, 2020
A huge part of me is gone. But then it’s not. Terrence wouldn’t like that. He helped to make me who I am as a person. He is the epitome of love and friendship. Only God knows how much I will miss him. 💔🙏💋 pic.twitter.com/qItUOWkEqI— Chita Rivera (@Chita_Rivera) March 24, 2020
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! https://t.co/N71IQcStFH— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) March 24, 2020
My Broadway debut. THE RITZ by the late, great Terrence McNally. A pioneer. A true man of the theater. All his comedy had pathos. And boy, did he love musicals. He made his mark. And he will be missed. pic.twitter.com/KTKR1S4BQm— Seth Rudetsky (@SethRudetsky) March 24, 2020
Rest In Peace, Terrence McNally.— Alex Brightman (@ABrightMonster) March 24, 2020
Sending love to @tkirdahy and all those who knew and loved him.
His speech at the Tony Awards is something I won’t ever forget.
Your words will ripple infinitely.
My heart has cracked wide open learning of this loss. Terrence McNally will always be one of my great inspirations. Thank you for all you created. All you’ve left us with. https://t.co/AmZV30mSAF— Dustin Lance Black (@DLanceBlack) March 24, 2020
This virus just claimed one of the most important artists of our time. His contribution to our culture and to me personally, can’t be overstated. 💔— Wilson Cruz (@wcruz73) March 24, 2020
Terrence McNally, Tony-Winning Scribe of Love! Valour! Compassion!, Ragtime & More, Dies at 81 https://t.co/WUuiF3ruSF
If you weren’t taking this seriously before, you better. We’ve lost a genius who fought for our community with his work and his life. RIP Terrence McNally. Don’t mock his legacy.— Ann Harada (@annharada) March 24, 2020
Saddened to hear of the passing of Terrence McNally. He was an absolute gentleman and his commitment to the theatre was unwavering. He will be missed by so many of us x— James Corden (@JKCorden) March 24, 2020
Please remember the brilliant Terrence McNally, “The playwright leaves a legacy of slowly changing people's minds by changing their hearts first.” He will be missed ❤️ https://t.co/jWm3gvX0YS— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) March 24, 2020
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. 💔— Audra McDonald (@AudraEqualityMc) March 24, 2020
Terrence McNally Dead: Tony-Winning Playwright Dies of Coronavirus – Variety https://t.co/IDQPbS80ml
RIP Terrence McNally. At 81, having suffered with lung disease, he was a sitting duck for this terrible virus yet I can't help but wonder: with the proper leadership, could his death have been prevented? All love to @tkirdahy, his husband & champion. A love story for the ages.❤️ pic.twitter.com/TyQmXZqfVK— marcshaiman (@marcshaiman) March 24, 2020
Because of when I came of age, many of the first adult-oriented contemporary plays I ever saw were by Terrence McNally. One of them, Love! Valor! Compassion! I still think about all the time. Rest In Peace. https://t.co/dCk72yG1mg— Isaac Butler (@parabasis) March 24, 2020
It is deeply cruel that Terrence McNally, who survived the HIV/AIDS epidemic and beautifully shared the stories of our lost brothers and sisters, should be lost to COVID-19. We are lucky to have had him for 81 years, and his immortal words will be our comfort now. Rest In Peace.— Benjamin Rauhala (@brauhala) March 24, 2020
Heartbroken about Terrence McNally. A brilliant writer and a lovely gentleman. #LoveValourCompassion indeed— Andy Cohen (@Andy) March 24, 2020