The nonprofit organization, committed to supporting new voices in the American theatre by providing financial and institutional support to early-career playwrights, is also committed to supporting LGBTQ causes, as McNally did throughout his life.
As part of its inaugural efforts, the Foundation has launched the fully funded Terrence McNally New Works Incubator at Rattlestick Theater; McNally had a particular love for Rattlestick and its mission of supporting playwrights. The incubator will support three emerging playwrights with financial support, 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 Chay Yew.
“Art and activism were central to Terrence’s life. 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,” says Kirdahy, McNally’s widow.
“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. 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,” adds Daniella Topol, the artistic director of Rattlestick Theater.
McNally was born and died in Florida, where he kept a home with husband Kirdahy for many years. In recognition of his lifetime of service to the LGBTQ+ community, Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organization, posthumously awarded McNally its highest honor, The Voice of Equality Award, in 2021. Combatting the rise of the bigoted “Don’t Say Gay” movement in Florida, the Foundation has made a $25,000 donation to Equality Florida to help fight discriminatory legislation in the state.
"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. We were proud to recognize Terrence McNally with our highest honor and this targeted contribution to support our legal team continues his amazing legacy,” states Equity Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith.
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. That legacy, in fact, lives on in McNally's plays, musicals, and operas that continue to be performed all over the world, as well as in his papers, which are kept and open to the public at the Harry Ransom Center in the University of Texas at Austin.
McNally, a five-time Tony Award recipient whose plays often featured explorations of contemporary gay life and a reverence for classical music, died March 24, 2020, at the age of 81. The playwright faced complications due to the coronavirus; he was a lung cancer survivor and lived with COPD. Read Playbill's complete obituary here.