Playwright, librettist, scriptwriter and outspoken LGBTQ activist Terrence McNally long believed in the power of the arts to transform society and make a difference. The documentary Terrence McNally: Every Act of Life, lifts the curtain on the life, career and inspirations of the complicated and brilliant Emmy- and four-time Tony Award-winning writer.
In addition to new interviews with McNally, the film features insights from his friends, his family and some of the most notable stars of stage and screen who he has worked with and mentored, among them F. Murray Abraham, Christine Baranski, Tyne Daly, Edie Falco, John Kander, Nathan Lane, Angela Lansbury, Marin Mazzie, Audra McDonald, Rita Moreno, Billy Porter, Chita Rivera, Doris Roberts, John Slattery and Patrick Wilson, plus the voices of Dan Bucatinsky, Bryan Cranston and Meryl Streep.
From his troubled beginnings in Corpus Christi, Texas to his college years in New York City, from dating legendary playwright Edward Albee to traveling the world as the tutor to John Steinbeck’s children and having his first Broadway play, And Things That Go Bump in the Night, flop at age 24, Terrence McNally: Every Act of Life traces McNally’s personal and professional successes, struggles and failures. Over the course of his six-decade career, he wrote trailblazing plays, musicals, operas and screenplays about sexuality, homophobia, faith, the power of art, the need to connect and finding meaning in every moment of life, including Next (1969), The Ritz (1975), Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (1982), Kiss of the Spider Woman (1992), Love! Valour! Compassion! (1994), Master Class (1995), Ragtime (1996), Dead Man Walking (2000), The Full Monty (2000) and Mothers and Sons (2014).
Rising above challenges, including his abusive alcoholic parents and growing up as a gay teen in a conservative Christian town, McNally overcame his own alcoholism (sparked by Angela Lansbury’s intervention), the deaths of friends and lovers to AIDS and cancer, including fellow playwright Wendy Wasserstein, and his own brutal fight with lung cancer. An outspoken champion of marriage equality and LGBTQ rights, he faced violent protests over his controversial play Corpus Christi (1998) – a gay, modern-day retelling of the story of Jesus – and found lasting love with his husband, producer-lawyer Tom Kirdahy.
“The stakes are really high now, higher than ever. We need to bring barriers down, not build walls. We need to love one another more and see how connected we really are. I think that’s the message of art,” said McNally.
Every Act of Life had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and has shown at more than 50 film festivals around the world, garnering numerous Best Documentary and Audience Awards.