“Tell your own story. Don’t be like anyone else. Oscar Wilde said it best, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.’” Terrence McNally
What a gift to hear the spirited and well-seasoned author Terrence McNally – a playwright, librettist, and screenwriter – talk about a life of writing. In a career spanning five decades, he’s still crafting stories and exploring the human heart. Here are some of his reflections and experiences to ponder and apply:
“Find your own voice” – Terrence said this in several different ways. In a world where everyone seems to want to be like everyone else, as creatives, our job is to find our own voice, the one that makes us different, and then use it. After more than 50 years, Terrence is still exploring his own voice, still telling stories.
The magic never ends — Terrence grew up in Texas. He had a grandfather in New York who took him to see his first plays and musicals when he was six or so. That magical experience made him want to be a writer. His first play was produced when he was in his twenties. It only played on stage a few weeks, but Terrence kept writing.
Storytelling is universal and always has been — From the time the Greeks performed their plays, people came together to take part in a shared experience. Everyone in the audience knew how Oedipus Rex turned out, but watching it together and witnessing its unfolding was cathartic and spoke to their humanity.
Interesting character + interesting situation = a promising story — When writing, Terrence said he always starts with a character and then looks for an intriguing situation to put the character in. You can have the most interesting character in the world, but if he sits in a room and nothing every happens to him, you don’t have a story. But if you have an interesting character and put him in an interesting situation, things happen.
Passion is ageless: Always, there’s something new and exciting to work on. McNally has a new play, Fire and Air out and he’s also written the book for a new Broadway musical, Anastasia, which explores universal themes of home, love, community, belonging. Bring your passion to the page and you’ll stay vibrant. Write on!