Playwright Terrence McNally Reflects on Theater Today
Steve Adubato goes one-on-one with Terrence McNally - one of the great playwrights of our time – to discuss his amazing career, new work, and today's theater scene.
"Welcome to One on One. I'm Steve Adubato. We are coming to you from the Tisch WNET Studio, here in the heart of Lincoln Center. I'm gonna introduce the young man next to me. Terrence McNally... it just says "playwright" here. That's ridiculous. You are a national treasure. You have done... you've said you've been in the business almost 60 years, but not. Close? Getting close. 56 I think. How about this? Alright. Can I just give you a quick sense of this? Bob Morris? We're... our director doing this. Right now, Fire and Air, a new play. And... in rehearsals, right? Yeah. Anastasia? On Broadway. Okay. On Broadway. On 44th Street. How about this? Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime, what is it again? Say that again Geor...? Love! Valour! Compassion! What... Frankie and Johnny. What are you, an underachiever? Yeah I guess. [laughter] How...? I just do what I love. I love what I do. So... How did you get into it? I think... I was very lucky. My grandfather... I didn't grow up in the City, I grew up all over America. But mainly Texas. That's where I hit adolescence. That's when life... Hmm. You remember things once the hormones are raging. I had a grandfather who lived in New York. And he was just, sort of sophisticated. Wow. And I'd come to New York sometimes in the Summer, and when I was about six he took me to see Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun. What did it do for you? You know I just said, "This is great!" I didn't think I wanted to be a playwright. Then when I was about ten or eleven, he took me to see The King and I, with Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner, and I thought, "We don't have this in Texas," but I still wanted to be a journalist. When did you come to New York? 17, when I went to Columbia. 23, your first play? And haven't left since. You haven't... you love the City? Yeah, truly. But I still feel like a visitor here. I don't feel like a New Yorker. I don't think I ever will. You know, you told me, Terrence, before we got... we started the program, that you did your first play at 23? ...3 or 4, yeah. Early... And you said it ran for a couple of weeks? You said it was not a huge hit? Mm hmm. Not at all. Biggest changes in theater, in "the" theater, in this city, over these few years? There's less of it. And the stakes are higher. Not just that productions cost more, it's just the odds are stacked against you in a way. Because? New York was totally a theater town when I came here. Now, theater's a..."