Terrence McNally Foundation Launches To Support Emerging Playwrights, LGBTQ+ Causes

Tom Kirdahy, Broadway producer and husband of the late theater icon Terrence McNally, announced today the creation of the Terrence McNally Foundation, “continuing the legendary playwright’s singular legacy of mentorship and activism.”

Today would have been the playwright’s 84th birthday. He died of complications from Covid at age 81 on March 24, 2020.

The nonprofit organization will be committed to supporting what today’s announcement describes as “bold new voices in the American Theatre” by providing financial and institutional support to early-career playwrights. In addition, the Terrence McNally Foundation is committed to supporting LGBTQ+ causes, as McNally did throughout his life.

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“Art and activism were central to Terrence’s life,” said Kirdahy in a statement. “At a time when living as an out gay man came at great professional cost, Terrence wrote and loved fearlessly. Terrence was a truth teller who never wrote in code. His groundbreaking plays and musicals fundamentally shaped the way a generation of Americans talked about LGBTQ+ issues. The Foundation looks forward to supporting playwrights and activists who are risk takers.”

McNally’s plays include Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, The Lisbon Traviata, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Master Class and Mothers and Sons, and books for such musicals as The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime, The Fully Monty and Anastasia, among many others.

As part of its inaugural efforts, the Foundation has launched the fully funded Terrence McNally New Works Incubator at Rattlestick Theater. McNally was a strong supporter of early-career playwrights and often attended shows at small Off Broadway venues across New York City. As a Village resident, McNally had a particular love for the neighborhood’s Rattlestick and its mission of supporting playwrights.

The Terrence McNally New Works Incubator is designed to support three emerging playwrights by awarding each of them critical financial support, personalized mentorship, and a one-week developmental workshop culminating in a presentation of their work. The submission process is free and open to the public and the selection panel for the inaugural cohort of McNally fellows includes Sheila Callaghan, Stephen Karam, MJ Kaufman, Donja R. Love, Taylor Mac, Lynn Nottage, Paula Vogel and Chey Yew.

“The aesthetic range of Terrence’s work – from dynamic Broadway musicals to intense intimate plays – is truly singular in the pantheon of great American playwrights,” said Daniella Topol, Artistic Director of Rattlestick Theater. “For over 60 years, Terrence was a fundamental part of New York’s playwriting scene, and he played an important role in the founding of Rattlestick in 1994. This incubator honors his contribution and enables his innovative body of work and powerful spirit to be an inspiring force for emerging playwrights now and in the future,”

In addition to support for playwrights, the Foundation mission includes the furtherance of LGBTQ+ rights. McNally’s LGBTQ+ activism was central to both his life and career, with gay characters in his earliest Broadway plays (his And Things That Go Bump In The Night ran on Broadway in 1965, four years before Stonewall). He chronicled the AIDS pandemic with plays like Lips Together, Teeth Apart and Love! Valour! Compassion!, and endured death threats and condemnation from Catholic Church leaders over the 1998 New York staging of his play Corpus Christi. McNally also wrote the first Broadway play to include a gay married couple (2014’s Mothers and Sons).

McNally’s 1994 musical, A Man of No Importance, written with Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, recently opened at Classic Stage Company with Jim Parsons starring as a gay bus conductor and amateur actor in 1964 Dublin. The new production has been extended through December 18.

The Foundation also has made a $25,000 donation to Equality Florida to help fight discriminatory legislation in the state – McNally was born and died in the state, and kept a home there with his husband for many years. Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organization, posthumously awarded McNally with its highest honor, The Voice of Equality Award, in 2021.

“We are so grateful to the Terrence McNally Foundation for this generous gift that directly supports efforts to end Florida’s hateful and discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ legislation,” said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida. “We were proud to recognize Terrence McNally with our highest honor and this targeted contribution to support our legal team continues his amazing legacy.”

In addition to a board of directors that includes Kirdahy, the Foundation is managed by McNally’s former assistant Santino DeAngelo, who oversees his legacy.

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