American Masters: Terrance McNally
Airs Monday, June 14 at 10 p.m.
Features new interviews with the groundbreaking playwright, F. Murray Abraham, Christine Baranski, Edie Falco, Nathan Lane, Angela Lansbury, Audra McDonald, Rita Moreno and other luminaries, plus the voices of Dan Bucatinsky, Bryan Cranston and Meryl Streep
Playwright, librettist, scriptwriter and outspoken LGBTQ activist Terrence McNally has long believed in the power of the arts to transform society and make a difference. The new documentary American Masters – 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, American Masters – 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 has written 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 now-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,” says 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.
Launched in 1986 on PBS, American Masters has earned 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 13 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards and many other honors. To further explore the lives and works of masters past and present, American Masters offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the American Masters Podcast, educational resources and more. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and also seen on the WORLD channel.
American Masters – Terrence McNally: Every Act of Life is a production of Floating World Pictures in association with Lakeview Productions and Talu Productions. Jeff Kaufman is producer, director and writer. Marcia S. Ross is producer. Jay Alix and Una Jackman, Suzi Dietz, Tom Kirdahy, Mark Lee, Ted Snowdon and Duffy Violante, and Buddy Steves and Rowena Young are executive producers. Marion Swaybill is consulting executive producer. Asher Bingham is editor with music by Laura Karpman and Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum. Jordan Black, Autumn Eakin and Anthony Lucido are cinematographers. Michael Kantor is executive producer for American Masters.