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Playwright Terrence McNally Has Died of COVID-19 Complications

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A giant of the American theater, Terrence McNally has died of complications from COVID-19.  An 81-year-old lung cancer survivor with chronic pulmonary disease, McNally died in a Sarasota, Fla., hospital, according to Deadline

While celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Idris Elba, and Andy Cohen have tested positive for the virus that is now a pandemic, McNally is the highest-profile person to die of COVID-19. 

The four-time Tony Award-winner wrote plays including The Ritz (which starred Rita Moreno and was made into a movie), Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Master Class, Lips Together, Teeth Apart, and Love! Valour! Compassion! He also wrote the book for musicals including Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime, The Full Monty, and The Rink (starring Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli).

McNally's 1994 play Love! Valour! Compassion! told the heartfelt story of a friend circle of gay men grappling with the HIV and AIDS epidemic while summering at a lakeside house. The acclaimed play won Tony, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Obie awards, to name a few. It was made into a movie in 1997. 

The 2018 documentary Every Act of Life, from director Jeff Kaufman, chronicled McNally's life growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas, through to his becoming the toast of Broadway. The film teemed with theater luminaries who praised McNally's gifts, including Audra McDonald, Christine Baranski, Stephen Spinella, Nathan Lane, Rivera, and dozens more. 

In 2018, McNally spoke with The Advocate about the making of Every Act of Life

“I've always been happy to be a gay man, but this movie makes me happy for gay men, period — and women, how we've grown as a community in my lifetime,” McNally said. “When this movie begins, it was against the law to be gay. I'm still alive, and I'm legally married, and gay men and women are adopting children. That's an enormous change to experience in one man's lifetime.”

McNally is survived by his husband, Tom Kirdahy.

Tags: Theater, COVID-19

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