News & Politics

Neil Simon’s Manuscripts Are Joining the Library of Congress Collection

The papers provide an intimate look into the acclaimed playwright's creative life. Here's a peek.

Photograph of Neil Simon (left) with director Mike Nichols, taken the morning after the opening of "Barefoot in the Park" on Broadway (1963). Photo from the Neil Simon Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress is acquiring what’s arguably a theater gold mine: the manuscripts and papers of Neil Simon, the most commercially successful American playwright of the 20th century.

The man behind works such as Come Blow Your Horn, Barefoot in the Park, Biloxi Blues, and The Odd Couple, Simon, who died in 2018, received more combined Oscar and Tony Award nominations than any other writer. He also earned a Pulitzer Prize for his play Lost in Yonkers and is the only playwright to have four Broadway plays running simultaneously.

“Neil Simon’s work has left an undeniable mark on American culture and theater,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden in a press release. “The donation of Simon’s papers to our nation’s library is a treasured addition to our holdings that enhances our performing arts collection as one of the best in the world. It also ensures Simon’s legacy is preserved for generations to come.”

Donated by way of Simon’s widow, the actress Elaine Joyce Simon, the collection includes approximately 7,700 items that provide an intimate peek into Simon’s creative process and life. Materials include scripts, notes, outlines, handwritten first drafts, and typescripts, helping piece together the evolution of Simon’s shows. Also in the collection are several shows that were never completed or produced, one of which, The Merry Widows, was written for Bette Midler and Whoopi Goldberg.

To celebrate the acquisition, Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband, actor Matthew Broderick, the titular teenager in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, will be at the library tonight. The two are starring in the Broadway revival of Simon’s play, Plaza Suite, directed by John Benjamin Hickey, who will moderate a conversation with the two actors. Earlier in his career, Broderick performed in several of Simon’s plays, winning a Tony Award for his role in Brighton Beach Memoirs.

Elaine Joyce Simon will also attend the event to discuss her late husband’s belongings, which join the papers of other prolific Broadway playwrights within the library’s performing arts collection, including Arthur Laurents, Marvin Hamlisch, Bob Fosse, and Gwen Verdon.

“I am delighted that his brilliant work, his prized possessions, and his personal artifacts will live alongside so many of the world’s treasures in the Library of Congress,” said Elaine Joyce Simon. “I hope that by providing access to these materials for students, researchers and educators, Neil’s singular mind will continue to inspire generations of theater makers and comedy writers well into the future.”

The public can livestream the event, starting at 7 p.m. ET, here.

Currently, there aren’t any plans to feature the Neil Simon collection in an exhibit. However, once the library’s music division finishes cataloguing the collection, anyone with a reader’s card will be able to view it. Until then, take a peek at the collection below:

Early handwritten draft of “The Goodbye Girl” (1977). Photo from the Neil Simon Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Neil Simon’s Tony Award, glasses, and baseball hat. Photo from the Neil Simon Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

Original Playbill for Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. Photo from the Neil Simon Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

Photograph of Neil Simon with Goldie Hawn during the filming of “Seems Like Old Times” (1980). Photo from the Neil Simon Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
One of Simon’s watercolor paintings. “Perhaps the most surprising discovery in the collection has been over a dozen notepads filled with watercolors, drawings and cartoons by Simon,” states the Library of Congress. Photo from the Neil Simon Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

Neil Simon’s handwritten rewrites to the script of “The Odd Couple” for a 2005 revival starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. Photo from the Neil Simon Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
The collection includes signed baseballs belonging to Neil Simon, a noted fan of the sport. Photo from the Neil Simon Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

Director Gene Saks, Matthew Broderick and Neil Simon on the set of “Biloxi Blues.” Photo from the Neil Simon Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Draft letter from Neil Simon to playwright August Wilson, circa 1997. Photo from the Neil Simon Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.