Terrence McNally opened up to Playbill.com's Harry Haun about his fascination with Maria Callas:
Are you pleased that Master Class is coming back?For more from Terrence McNally, visit the full write up at Playbill.com.
Oh, very. Tyne gave an extraordinary performance at the Kennedy Center. It deserves to be seen in New York. She made it her own. I never found myself comparing her to anyone else who's done the part. I thought she was absolutely wonderful on her own terms — and I've been very lucky with my Marias: My God! from Zoe Caldwell to Patti LuPone to Dixie Carter, just on Broadway. Fanny Ardant had a great success in it in Paris, and there's a woman doing it in The Netherlands now who got extraordinary reviews and is kinda their leading actress there.
Was it easy for you to write Callas? It seemed like you were so connected to that character.
Maria Callas was someone I've thought about since I was a very young person when I first heard her voice on the radio growing up in Texas. I fell in love with the sound of her voice. She has fascinated me. And then her life! That kind of inner turmoil of falling in love with and being rejected by one of the richest, most powerful men in the world — it's quite an extraordinary trajectory for anyone's life. It just seemed very theatrical to me.
But when you sit down to write it, you don't know if anyone else is going to enjoy it or be interested in it. I'll never forget the first time we ever did it for anyone. Zoe and I and Lenny Foglia, the director, went to Big Fork, Montana, and read the play in a Town Hall sort of auditorium just to see how Normal People — non-opera, non-Callas fanatics, non-New York theatregoers — would react to the play. We took three planes and still drove for quite a while. It was a very long trip, but they loved it. When it was over, one of the questions was, "Is Maria Callas a real person?" Then the woman turned to her husband and said, "Ya see, I told you she was a real person." Someone else asked Zoe if she was a professional actress. Zoe said, "Yes, I am." The woman said, "You're very good." Zoe said, "Thank you." So we thought if the play works for an audience that doesn't know that, my God, this is the legendary Zoe Caldwell with 85 Tony Awards, then maybe the play has a chance elsewhere.