Tom Kirdahy (WSUC ’85, LAW ’88)
Producing Plays and Change
By Lindsy Van Gelder
Portrait by Joel Griffith
Tom Kirdahy and his undergraduate roommate—someone named Bill de Blasio (WSUC ’84)—ran what Kirdahy calls “student action central” out of their corner dorm room at Weinstein Hall. They shared a love for the Clash and a commitment to liberal politics. De Blasio, of course, went on to become mayor of New York City; Kirdahy continued on to law school and worked for several organizations advocating for the rights of people with HIV and AIDS. Then in 2001, he met his future husband, the late playwright Terrence McNally (his Sardi’s caricature is directly above Kirdahy, above), and began a professional pivot to the arts. “Theater had always been my passion,” says Kirdahy. “It seemed time to raise the curtain on a second career.”
Kirdahy has produced numerous plays in London and New York, including Hadestown, which won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical; the West End and Broadway productions of The Inheritance (a two-part look at gay history, riffing on the work of E. M. Forster); and the off-Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors. His upcoming productions include two musicals, one about the artist Tamara de Lempicka and the other The Bedwetter, based on the memoir by Sarah Silverman (TSOA nongrad alum).
While Kirdahy was carving out his second career, he and McNally were becoming marriage rights activists. The late Edie Windsor (CIMS ’57), the chief plaintiff in the 2013 Supreme Court case that struck down a federal law denying benefits to same-sex couples, was a close friend. Beyond matters of principle, McNally had health issues, “and we wanted to be as married as we could be,” Kirdahy explains. The couple entered a civil union in Vermont in 2003 and legally wed in 2010 after Washington, DC, legalized same-sex marriage. (Kirdahy later produced McNally’s play Mothers and Sons.) But the weddings kept on coming: after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, they joined a celebratory crowd and renewed their vows on the steps of New York’s City Hall . . . with Kirdahy’s former roommate presiding.
The marriage of inclusionary politics and entertainment is also in Kirdahy’s wheelhouse. “I do my best to champion arts that maybe change hearts and minds and help us heal,” he says. “We need to make sure that when anyone walks into a theater, they can find themselves on stage, whether in terms of gender identity or expression, race, religion, or socioeconomic status. I consider it a genuine privilege to tell stories, particularly on Broadway.”
“I do my best to champion arts that maybe change hearts and minds and help us heal.”