Terrence McNally

Terrence McNally

Past Event: Monday, January 24, 2005

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

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Literary Arts

Sponsored by Stoel Rives, LLP.

Growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas, playwright Terrence McNally escaped a lonely childhood by immersing himself in radio dramas such as The Green Hornet and live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera. He even constructed a miniature model of the opera and manipulated scenes on the stage that, he later recalled, “was more real than life.” More than two dozen plays—and stages—later, a larger than life-size career has emerged from McNally’s early imaginings. He is the author of such renowned plays as Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (1987), which he adapted into a major motion picture, and Love! Valour! Compassion! (1994), which won a Tony Award for Best Play in 1995. The Nation called it “a remarkably Chekovian work—which is to say vital and capacious, extremely natural yet poetic and crafted at the same time.”

Over the years, McNally’s plays have been described as satiric and darkly comic, but more recently they have also come to be appreciated as compassionate, lyrical, and life-affirming. As actress Swoosie Kurtz, who has appeared in his plays, has said, “he shapes the opera of the human heart.” In addition to two Tony Awards for Best Play, McNally has also been the recipient of two Guggenheim fellowships and numerous OBIE awards. He lives in New York City.

Excerpt from Master Class (1995)
Maria: No applause. We’re here to work. You’re not in a theatre. This is a classroom. No folderol. This is a master class. Singing is serious business. We’re going to roll up our sleeves and work. I appreciate your welcome, but enough is enough. Basta. Fini. Eh?

So. How is everyone? Can you hear me? I don’t believe in microphones. Singing is first of all about projection. So is speech. People are forgetting how to listen. They want everything blasted at them. Listening takes concentration. If you can’t hear me, it’s your fault. You’re not concentrating. I don’t get any louder than this. So come down closer or leave. No takers? What? You’re all scared of me? Eh? Is that it? I don’t bite. I promise you. I bark—I bark quite a bit actually—but I don’t bite. I don’t know what you’re expecting. What did they tell you? I hope you’re not expecting me to sing. Well, we shall see what we shall see.

Allora, so, let’s begin. Where is the first student? Who is the first student? Are they here? When I was a student, I never missed a lesson. Never. Not once. I was never late for one either. In fact, I was usually early. I never wanted to leave the conservatory. I lived, ate, and slept music. Music is a discipline. Too many of you are looking for the easy way out. Short cuts. No. If you want to have a career, as I did—and I’m not boasting now, I am not one to boast—you must be willing to subjugate yourself—is that a word?—subjugate yourself to the music. Always the music. You are its servant. You are here to serve the composer. The composer is God. In Athens, and this was during the war, I often went to bed hungry, but I walked to the conservatory and back every day, six days a week, and sometimes my feet were bleeding because I had no proper shoes. I don’t tell you this to melodramatize. Oh no. I tell you to show you who I am. Discipline. Courage. Here. Right here. From the guts.

Selected WorkCorpus Christi (1997)Master Class (1995) Love! Valour! Compassion! (1994) Kiss of the Spider Woman (1992) Lips Together, Teeth Apart (1991) Andre’s Mother (1990)The Lisbon Traviata (1989) Frankie and Johnny at the Claire de Lune (1987) The Ritz (1975) Next (1969)

LinksOnline Interview

Terrence McNally on the making of Dead Man Walking

Article, “The Amazing McNally”

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)
Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2019/20 Season. For digital streams of online events, all pre-recorded and live online events will have either open or closed captioning.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals. To make a request for interpretation, please contact us at boxoffice@lectures.org or 206.621.2230×10, or select “Sign Language Interpretation” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process and we will contact you to confirm details. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. To reserve seating for a specific mobility concern, you may select “Wheelchair Accessible or Alternative Seating Options” during ticket checkout, and we will contact you to confirm details. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

Guide and service dogs are welcome.

Gender neutral restrooms are available.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive. Our Patron Services Manager is available at boxoffice@lectures.org, or Monday-Friday from 10:00am – 5:00pm at 206.621.2230×10.

For more accessibility information, please head to lectures.org/accessibility. If you would like to make accessibility arrangements you do not see listed here, please contact our box office or select “Other Accommodations” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process, and we will contact you to confirm details.