Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chita Rivera, Anthony Rapp pay tribute to Terrence McNally

Terrence McNally
Members of the theater community paid tribute to Terrence McNally, who died Tuesday.
(Fernando Leon / Getty Images for Dramatists Guild)

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.”


Terrence McNally, whose varied and prolific career as a playwright, musical librettist and screenwriter earned him five Tony Awards and an Emmy, died Tuesday.

March 24, 2020

“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!”

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.