Blog About the Playwright – Terrence McNally
Feb 10, 2024

About the Playwright – Terrence McNally

“Theatre changes hearts,
that secret place where we all truly live…” 

— Terrence McNally
2019 Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement Acceptance Speech

Terrence McNally was an American playwright, librettist, and LGBTQ+ trailblazer, described by the New York Times as “the bard of the American Theater.” One of the few playwrights of his generation to successfully pass from the avant-garde to mainstream acclaim, McNally redefined American playwriting for six decades and was the recipient of five Tony Awards: two for his plays Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class, two for the books to his musicals Kiss of the Spider Woman and Ragtime, and the 2019 Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. He received the 2011 Dramatists Guild Lifetime Achievement Award (he was Vice President of the Guild from 1981 to 2001), the 2015 Lucille Lortel Lifetime Achievement Award, a 1996 induction into the American Theater Hall of Fame, and, in 2018, an induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His other accolades include an Emmy Award (Andre’s Mother), two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Grant, four Drama Desk Awards, two Lucille Lortel Awards, two Obie Awards, and three Hull-Warriner Awards. McNally was an alumnus of Columbia University and received numerous honorary degrees, including from NYU and Juilliard, where he helped create the playwriting program in 1993.  His legacy lives on in his 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.


1993 – Best Book of a Musical
Kiss of the Spider Woman

1995 – Best Play
Love! Valour! Compassion!

1996 – Best Play
Master Class

1998 – Best Book of a Musical

2019 – Special Tony Award
Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre