Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor



THEATER Mourning Terrence McNally
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times

This article shared 2025 times since Mon Mar 30, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

The prolific Emmy and Tony Award-winning writer Terrence McNally passed away at the age of 81 in Florida at a Sarasota hospital on Tuesday, March 24. The cause of death was due to complications of the coronavirus ( COVID-19 ).

Throughout his career, McNally chronicled gay culture in all kinds of genres. One of his early hits was the 1974 gay bathhouse farce The Ritz. McNally later dealt with different aspects of the AIDS crisis in dramas like The Lisbon Traviata, Mothers and Sons and Love! Valour! Compassion!

"I think my plays are my autobiography," said McNally in a November 2015 interview with the Windy City Times. At the time, McNally was in Chicago to promote his book anthology Selected Works: A Memoir in Plays.

As a youth growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas, McNally nearly pursued a career in journalism. He won a scholarship to Northwestern University in Evanston, and had previously been part of its National High School Institute program informally known as "The Cherubs."

But McNally was also accepted into Columbia University in New York, so he headed there at the age of 17.

"New York looked like so much fun," McNally said. "I thought it might be so much easier to meet other gay young men in New York than Chicago."

McNally was an early boyfriend of playwright Edward Albee, and he soon became a fixture of New York's burgeoning off-Broadway theater scene. McNally also became a respected book writer for many hit musicals like Ragtime, Kiss of the Spider Woman and The Full Monty. McNally also collaborated with composer Jake Heggie as the librettist to the operas Dead Man Walking and Great Scott.

All of this is thoroughly covered in Jeff Kaufman's 2018 film documentary on McNally called Every Act of Life. It was broadcast on PBS in 2019, and is available for streaming.

Locally, McNally worked at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in 2001 as the book writer to the world-premiere musical of "The Visit" with the songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb. McNally is also fondly remembered by many Chicago theater artists when he came to see local productions of his plays.

"[McNally] never stopped working. The re-writes were constant," said Jim Corti, who originated the roles of The Doctor in The Visit and escapologist Harry Houdini in Ragtime. "He was very supportive and endearing. Everybody loved him."

Corti is the founding artistic director of the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, and is set to direct Ragtime next season. Corti was hoping to see McNally again in April for a New York benefit reunion concert of Ragtime, which has since been postponed.

"It's like a punch to the gut." Corti said. "How confounding it is for someone to have to pass away to realize how much you miss them."

David Zak, artistic director of both Pride Films and Plays and the former Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, has great memories of watching McNally during the Chicago premiere of Corpus Christi at the Bailiwick in 2001. McNally had received death threats over the 1998 New York premiere of the play, which follows a group of gay men re-enacting Christ's spiritual journey.

"Obviously, no one was walking through metal detectors," said Zak comparing the fraught New York reception of Corpus Christi to the more-relaxed one in Chicago.

"After the first couple of lines, the audience just roared with laughter," Zak said. "There was a joke that got everyone's attention, and [McNally] just looked around so delighted as if I've never heard a laugh at this line of text."

Zak was also grateful to McNally for giving permission to do readings of his plays during the early years of Pride Films and Plays. The company has gone on to present the Chicago premieres of McNally's drama Some Men and the revamped comedy It's Only a Play.

In 2015, Eclipse Theatre Company dedicated its entire season to McNally with his plays Lips Together, Teeth Apart, A Perfect Ganesh and The Lisbon Traviata. McNally himself caught the latter production, and director Steve Scott remembers his complimentary encounters with the cast and crew.

"[McNally] seemed to be very much at peace with himself," Scott said. "He was very calm. I didn't get a sense of the fiery young man that he had obviously been. He had matured into someone who was very proud of the work that he had done and was looking forward to more work."

Since Scott was also slated to direct the Chicago-area premiere of Mothers and Sons at Northlight Theatre in Skokie in early 2016, he took McNally's only bit of advice which was to look for humor in the play.

"[Mothers and Sons] dealt so elegantly with all the tragedies the gay community came through at that point," Scott said. "It's an incredibly healing play to work on, and I got that from a lot of the audience who saw it, many of whom were parents of gay sons who had similar issues to what was in the play."

Scott also offer praise to McNally over the way he was able to lace wit and ironic humor through all of his works—even the most tragic ones.

"I feel a huge sense of loss because of what he did for me personally—not just as a collaborator—but as a gay man and what he did for our community," said Scott about the breadth of McNally's writing and how he chronicled gay life and culture. "It's astounding, and we'll come to treasure that more in the days ahead."

This article shared 2025 times since Mon Mar 30, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Virtual OUTspoken storytelling event Feb. 2
The next virtual OUTspoken Storytelling Night will take place Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. The speakers will be as follows: —Donald Bell is a third-generation Chicagoan, South Sider and White Sox fan who is a retired ...

Gay News

'Dixie's Happy Hour' streaming Jan. 26-31
On the heels of Dixie's Tupperware Party and Dixie's: Never Wear a Tube Top While Riding a Mechanical Bull (and 16 other things I learned while I was drinking last Thursday), drag personality Dixie Longate is ...

Gay News

Hell in a Handbag Productions to present Out, Darn Spot!
--From a press release - CHICAGO (Jan. 15, 2021) — Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to present the campy comedyOut, Darn Spot!, written by and starring ensemble member Tyler Anthony Smith* and directed, filmed and edited by Stephanie Shaw. ...

Gay News

Artemisia Theatre announces entirely virtual 2021 season
--From a press release - CHICAGO - In order to continue its strong feminist story-telling tradition, Artemisia Theatre announces an entirely virtual 2021 season. The new season includes two World Premiere theater productions and eight audio performances airing on its podcast ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Laverne Cox, lesbian coach, Jim Parsons, 'Brokeback,' theater items
Laverne Cox is teaming with Meryl Streep and Rashida Jones to executive-produce a new documentary exploring one of the most critical issues at the intersection of race, feminism, and power: the sex industry, noted. Sell/Buy/Date ...

Gay News

African American Arts Alliance, Black Ensemble to present MLK event Jan. 18
The African American Arts Alliance of Chicago and Black Ensemble Theater will present the 10th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration on Monday, Jan. 18, at 6 p.m. The online event will be free. This ...

Gay News

Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special extended through Jan. 17
--From a press release - CHICAGO (Jan. 4, 2021) — Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to announce one additional week of performances of its streaming holiday hit The Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special, now playing through Jan. 17, 2021. ...

Gay News

PASSAGES George H. Gibson
George Horner Gibson died at his home in Chicago on Jan. 3, 2021. He was 88. Gibson was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated from Furman University with bachelor's ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Chicago activist Benny Montgomery dies
Benny M. Montgomery Jr.—a longtime Chicago-based LGBTQ-rights activist who had worked as a constituent services administrator for U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and former Congresswoman Cardiss Collins, among other politicians—passed away ...

Gay News

Chicago trans woman Eshay Key, 25, dies in Christmas shooting
Column by Sue Kerr - Just a week after writing about the ugly shooting death of a 19-year-old Black gender nonconforming young adult while they were at a Christmas party, I was hopeful there would be no more deaths to cover ...

Gay News

'Party Monster' killer Michael Alig dies at 54
Michael Alig who was at the center of the LGBTQ "club kids" scene in late 1980s and early '90s Manhattan, and whose involvement in the murder and dismemberment of his drug dealer was chronicled in the 2003 film Party Monster died Dec. 25th ...

Gay News

Hell in a Handbag announces annual benefit, "The Morning After"
CHICAGO (Dec. 17, 2020) — Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to announce its annual benefit "The Morning After," featuring the streaming world premiere of the smash hit musical that started it all for them, ...

Gay News

PrideArts to screen one-night-only live virtual readings
--From a press release - PrideArts series of one-night-only live virtual readings resumes with TWELFTH NIGHT on the Twelfth of January Peter Vamvakas to direct a cast of seven Click here for a Word doc version of this release CHICAGO — ...

Gay News

Bechdel Fest 8 to highlight femme, female-identifying, non-binary, trans, queer actors
Broken Nose Theatre (BNT) will present Bechdel Fest 8: Realign—the company’s annual festival of new short plays featuring an ensemble of femme, female-identifying, non-binary, trans and queer actors talking about things other than men. ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Chicago gay pioneer Richard Cooke dies
Richard Cooke, a longtime Chicago resident and familiar East Lakeview presence along with his dachshund Governor, died in the early morning hours of Dec. 12, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. He was ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.