Arvada Center Blog

Get to know – Neil Simon

Posted by Sarah Kolb on October 01st 2019 to Behind the Scenes

Marvin Neil Simon was an American playwright, screenwriter and author. He wrote more than 30 plays and nearly the same number of movie screenplays, mostly adaptations of his plays. He received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer.

Born in the Bronx in 1927, Simon was forced to live with relatives due to the unhealthy nature of his parents’ relationship and the poverty of the family during the Great Depression.

Attributing his success as a writer to his ability to use comedy to block out the darkest parts of life, he once said, “I didn’t come from one broken family, but from five.”

A young man without much direction, he enlisted in the Army Air Force Reserve, which eventually led him to Colorado. In 1945 he was stationed at Lowry Air Force Base, and for a brief stint in 1945-1946 he attended Denver University. It was here in Colorado that he began his career as a writer, first as a sports editor and then as a comedy writer for radio and television shows.

Kate Gleason and Gareth Saxe, Matt Gale Photography 2019

He moved back to New York City in the 1950s and saw success as a television writer, working alongside the likes of other soon-to-be comedy greats like Mel Brooks. In 1961 his first Broadway play Come Blow Your Horn was produced and as he said, “the theatre and I discovered each other.” And discover each other they did – by 1965 he had written two more Broadway smash hits, Barefoot In the Park, and The Odd Couple, which won the Tony Award for best play.

Kate Gleason and Gareth Saxe, Matt Gale Photography 2019

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century and well into the 21st, Simon was regarded as one of the great comedy writers, renowned for his ability to approach subjects from the farcical to the deeply emotional with equal craft and sensitivity.

He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for Lost in Yonkers. Simon’s work is firmly in our cultural consciousness. Sadly, he passed away in 2018, but his legacy lives on through his volumes of plays, screenplays, and musicals.

Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite plays from October 4 – November 10. 

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