Librettist Biography

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Terrence McNally is one of the American Theatre’s most important living playwrights. His groundbreaking contributions to the art of theatre are incredibly far-reaching and span five decades. His ability to move effortlessly between history and current events, intimate emotional portraits and sweeping cultural landscapes, continues to make him an integral part of the American theatre.  He is a writer equally willing to challenge an audience’s view of the past and open them to the possibilities of the future.

He is the author of over thirty plays, and has written for musical theatre, opera, television, and film.  He received Tony Awards for his plays Love! Valour! Compassion! (1995) and Master Class (1995) and his musical books for Ragtime (1998) and Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993).

After graduating from Columbia University in 1960, McNally was hired by novelist John Steinbeck to tutor his two teenage boys on a cruise around the world.  Shortly thereafter, his first play, And Things that Go Bump in the Night (1964), opened at the Royale Theatre on Broadway marking his first Broadway production.

McNally’s earlier works include Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone? (1971), which chronicles a young man’s rebellion against a materialistic, oppressively regulated world, Bad Habits (1974), which satirizes American reliance upon psychotherapy, and The Ritz (1975), about a straight man who inadvertently takes refuge on a stormy night in a Mafia-owned gay bathhouse.

McNally contributed books to the musicals The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and most recently The Visit (2015), which was nominated for 5 Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical.  All were collaborations with the composer John Kander and the lyricist Fred Ebb.  He also wrote the musical book for The Full Monty (2000).  In the world of opera he has created the librettos for the poignant Dead Man Walking (2001), which was composed by Jake Heggie and has been performed in over 40 countries worldwide.  More recently he wrote the libretto for Great Scott (2015), also composed by Jake Heggie, which premiered at the Dallas Opera starring Joyce DiDonato.

In 2010 the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts presented Terrence McNally’s Nights at the Opera, a three-play festival of his work, which included The Lisbon Traviata, Master Class, and Golden Age.  His smash hit, It’s Only a Play (2014) recently appeared on Broadway’s Schoenfeld Theater, and Mothers and Sons (2014), his 20th Broadway production, received a Tony Nomination for Best Play.  In April 2017, the musical Anastasia, for which he wrote the book, will open on Broadway and will mark the third musical in his collaboration with the lyricist Lynn Ahrens and the composer Stephen Flaherty.  They previously collaborated on Ragtime and A Man of No Importance (2002).

McNally has been honored with numerous awards including an Emmy Award and multiple Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, and Obie Awards.  He received the Dramatists Guild Lifetime Achievement Award (2011) as well as the Lucille Lortel Lifetime Achievement Award (2015). He has received two Guggenheim Fellowships, three Hull-Warriner Awards, a Rockefeller Grant, and a citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1996.  His other plays include And Away We Go, Frankie and Johnny in the Claire De Lune, Lips Together, Teeth Apart, Corpus Christi, Some Men, A Perfect Ganesh, The Stendhal Syndrome, Dedication or the Stuff of Dreams, Deuce and Unusual Acts of Devotion.  He is married to Tom Kirdahy, the theatrical producer, and they reside in Greenwich Village.