Nathan G. Tipton
He has been derided by critics and praised by audiences. His plays have raised hackles, sparked protests, and provoked death threats, but they have also brought people to tears and induced gales of laughter, sometimes in the same act. His work has been called exuberant, lyrical, farcical, outrageous, infuriating, hilarious, death-haunted, and music-vitalized. He has been a driving force in the American theater, serving as vice-president of the Dramatists Guild since 1981 and, in 1993, helping to launch the playwriting department at the Julliard School. Spanning a career that began, rather inauspiciously, in 1964, Terrence McNally has continued to grow in stature as both playwright and artist. He has, in fact, achieved, and continues to command, an almost unparalleled level of respect and success from both audiences and theatrical peers.
McNally was born on November 3, 1939, in St. Petersburg, Florida, the son of Hubert Arthur and Dorothy Rapp McNally. He grew up, however, in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he graduated from high school in 1956. McNally’s parents, both native New Yorkers, introduced him at age seven to the theater when, during a family trip to Manhattan, they took him to see Annie Get Your Gun, starring Ethel Merman. The play would serve to form a connection between New York and the theater that McNally would begin exploring when, in 1956, he left Corpus Christi to attend Columbia University. Although McNally was an English major, he collaborated on a college variety show in his senior year at Columbia. McNally graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1960 and traveled to Mexico on a Henry Evans Traveling Fellowship won as a result of his creative writing work. While in Mexico McNally wrote a long one-act play that he sent to the Actors Studio in New York, where it was read by Molly Kazan, wife of noted director Elia Kazan.