He would have written the greatest play about this.
Yesterday, the COVID-19 crisis got very personal for every one of us in the theater industry, as it claimed the life of one of our greatest playwrights and greatest gentlemen, Terrence McNally.
From Frankie and Johnny to Ragtime to Master Class to Anastasia to The Visit and so many more, Terrence was one of our most prolific writers, and something tells me that had this @#$%ing virus not got in his way, he would have had plenty more in him at his young age of 81.
Love Valour Compassion was my first McNally experience, which I saw in my early 20s on Broadway, and as I wrote about here, was one of the first times I audibly gasped when watching a play over something that a character said, not did. Terrence could wield words like a weapon, and then use them to tuck you in at night just a few scenes later.
And then, still-pinch-me, I got to work with him.
The first time was as the Associate Company Manager on that marvelous original company of Ragtime. I filled his house seat orders. Got him a coffee every so often. Yet he treated me like I had been working in the business as long as he had.
Then, with his incredibly passionate Producer and Husband, Tom Kirdahy, I produced It’s Only A Play on Broadway, which has been one of the most successful shows I’ve done. It was a love letter to the theater. And one of the reasons why it worked, was because Terrence @#$%ing loved the theater so much. I mean, he wrote movies, tv, opera, etc. and could have kept writing in any one of those mediums . . . but he kept coming back to us. It’s why I jumped on board as a Producer on Mothers and Sons, The Visit and that latest revival of Frankie and Johnny.
And he was always there to inspire and encourage others. He was one of my very first podcast guests (#4 to be exact) . . . and after he saw Gettin’ The Band Back Together, he sent me an email compliment that I tacked to my bulletin board, where it remains to this day.
Terrence didn’t just write great plays. He helped shape society with the plays he wrote. I’m so thankful he gave us the work he did, and angry that he was taken from just too soon.
But I know what he’d want for all of the TheaterMakers who are heartbroken today is for us to take all of that emotion we are feeling and put it into our work.
God, I’m sure you know this, but if you ever need someone else to write your story again, you’ve got the best with you now.