If you look up American playwright Terrence McNally on Google, it says he was from St. Pete. In actuality, his childhood home resides on 80th Avenue of Treasure Island. Now, a honorary plaque stands in front of the house.
McNally died March 24, 2020 due to COVID-19 health complications. According to American Stage, he was known for his work as “an openly gay advocate for LGBTQ+ stories.”
Equality Florida volunteer Marge Sherwin discovered the colorful cottage used to be home to McNally. Todd Richardson, Pinellas Development Director at Equality Florida, and Sherwin proposed a dedication plaque for outside of the home.
They contacted the current owner, Teri Davidson, about the proposition.
“[Davidson] said ‘the owners of the home before I bought it were friends with Jimmy Buffett, and he stayed here.’ And I said, ‘But do you you know who built your house and who was the first person living here?’ And she said, ‘I have no idea.’,” Richardson said.
Once she learned McNally lived there, she loved the idea of a dedication plaque. Equality Florida received approval from Davidson and the Treasure Island Commission for the public landmark. With the help of donors, they created and installed the plaque, which cost $4,000, according to American Stage.
The black and copper plaque stands on two posts with a engraving of McNally’s face, his name, and a paragraph stating:
“Born in Sunset Beach, Michael ‘Terrence’ McNally would grow up to be heralded as the ‘Bard of the American Theater,’ enjoying an illustrious career on Broadway that spanned six decades and garnered McNally a lifetime of awards, including a record five Tony Awards and an induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.”
McNally’s Honorary Plaque
On May 7, Equality Florida and American Stage held a dedication ceremony in front of the beach cottage to honor the five-time Tony award winner. Richardson, Sherwin, Terrence McNally Legacy Manager Santino DeAngelo, and McNally’s widowed husband, Tom Kirdahy, spoke on that Sunday afternoon.
“When we discovered this was his childhood home, our jaws dropped,” Kirdahy said. “And knowing that we’re permanently celebrating his roots means the world to me.”
Coincidently, St. Pete’s American Stage currently has showtimes for the production of Ragtime, a musical by McNally. The cast attended the ceremony.
“We picked Ragtime over a year and a half ago, so this was not even a thing when we announced Ragtime,” said American Stage’s Director of Marketing and Communications Avery Anderson. “And then it just kind of happened, and it was like, ‘oh my gosh, kind of perfect timing’.”
Kirdahy went to see the show on May 6. This production reminded Kirdahy of how far marriage equality has come in this country.
“Last night, we have the glorious privilege of watching American stages of production of Ragtime in the park and it was just absolutely stunning,” Kirdahy said.
In honor of McNally, Kirdahy asked Dante’ J.L. Murray, who plays “Coalhouse” in Ragtime, to perform “Make Them Hear You” to finish off the ceremony. Murray’s voice filled the street with empowering lyrics of justice. As everyone applauded, Kirdahy gave Murray a hug.
All are welcome to view the plaque at 27th 80th Ave. in Treasure Island’s Sunset Beach.