And Things That Go Bump in the Night by
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It’s been one week since we started our unplanned Covid 19 quarantine/staycation and I’m still reeling with the disbelief and the worry.  And each day brings news of people we know or of well-known personalities who’ve been affected.

Yesterday we learned of the coronavirus-related death at 81 of one of our greatest contemporary American playwrights, Terrence McNally.  Apparently McNally had chronic pulmonary disease and had overcome lung cancer,

In college I took a modern drama course with a professor whose partner was the then new young playwright Arthur Kopit.  Thus we read Kopit’s early plays,  and the plays of another playwright of their group,  the lesser known Texas-born Terrence McNally.

I was captivated by McNally’s work then,  and since have followed what became his prolific,  and very successful theatrical career.  McNally wrote over three dozen plays including the Tony winners Love! Valor! Compassion! about a group of gay men vacationing together,  and Master Class  about the opera diva Maria Callas.  He also wrote the books for ten musicals including the Tony winners Kiss of the Spider Woman set in an Argentine prison,  and Ragtime based on the E L Doctorow novel about three New York, turn-of-the-century families seeking the American dream.  An amazingly versatile writer,  McNally also created opera librettos and screenplays for films and TV.  Just last season I saw the revival of his stirring play Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.

But his first play to appear on Broadway was And Things That Go Bumo in the Night.  The year was 1965 and the subject was risky and unusual for the time – a romance between two gay men.

Years ago I met McNally at a human potential weekend we were both attending,  and a few weeks later he joined us for dinner and a performance of one of his plays then on Broadway.  I would seldom miss a McNally play,  but just can’t remember which one we saw that night.  I just remember my delight in spending an evening with Terrence McNally!

Dana Susan Lehrman

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: Terrence McNally, Playwrights, Theatre


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    Thank you for sharing Terrence McNally’s amazing achievements, Dana. I read about his death from COVID-19, but your story makes it truly resonate. So sad to have lost such a talented man to this pandemic.

  2. I’m so sorry, Dana, I can feel how difficult this is for you but am glad you were able to share it here so we can support you in your sorrow. I hadn’t heard this, but I’m listening to much less news so that I don’t sink into a hole I can’t get out of. There will be time to catch up when this is over. In the meantime we have to stay strong mentally to stay strong physically. Be safe, be well.

    • Thanx BB, I didn’t mean to imply that Terrence McNally and I became fast friends, but I do feel his loss as a wonderful artist.

      When we first met at that workshop we were seated in a circle and in turn were introducing ourselves by name.
      When it was his turn, hearing his name I called out excitedly, Are you THE Terrence McNally?!?

  3. Marian says:

    Thanks for this, Dana, what a loss. I, too, loved Terrence McNally’s plays. This is uncomfortable and is getting personal. Virtual hugs to you.

    • Marian, it’s been wonderful connecting to all you new Retro friends, we need all the hugs we can get, albeit virtual.

      I didn’t mean to imply that McNally and I became close friends, but over that intense weekend all of us in that circle did some soul-baring.

      Stay safe!

  4. Suzy says:

    I’m a fan of his work too, and I hadn’t heard that he died. I see it was just 3 days ago. Like Barb, I’m listening to much less news these days, and I missed it. What a great loss! Thanks for posting this remembrance of him.

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