Terrence McNally was born in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1939, but he grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he received his early education. His parents, both from New York, promoted his enthusiasm for theater by taking him to see both plays and musicals. In 1956, he entered Columbia University, where he took courses in writing and collaborated on variety shows. He completed his B.A. in English, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1960, and was named an Evans Traveling Fellow. With the fellowship, McNally went to Mexico, where he wrote a one-act play and sent it to the Actors Studio in New York. It piqued the interest of Molly Kazan, who appointed him stage manager there. Through his association with Kazan and her husband, Elia Kazan, McNally was hired as tutor to John Steinbeck’s teenage sons, and in 1961 and 1962, he toured the world with the Steinbeck family.
Back in New York, McNally won an award for a one-act play, which, with revisions, would become And Things That Go Bump in the Night. In 1964, he received a grant for staging And Things That Go Bump in the Night at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. The notoriety that surrounded the production induced producer Theodore Mann to try a New York staging in 1965, but it was met with extremely hostile reviews and closed within two weeks. The disheartened McNally briefly dropped playwriting and took up journalism, but prompted by theater friends, he returned to begin a prolific period in which he wrote several one-act plays produced either Off-Broadway or on public television. The best known, Next, ran for more than seven hundred performances and secured McNally’s reputation as a talented writer of trenchant satire. Critics were generally less receptive to McNally’s full-length plays, and the failure of Broadway, Broadway in 1979 sent the playwright into new creative doldrums. It was five years before he returned to the Broadway stage, with the musical The Rink, for which he wrote the book. Although received tepidly by critics, the...
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