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[[image]] Impressed with his previous work, Simon chose Joe Mantello (left) to direct Proposals, because, he says, "I needed someone who was young, who would understand the play and stage it in a contemporary way" when she learned the part she was up for was that of a domestic. She relented at the urging of her agent. "She said, 'I'll read it, but I'm not going to do it,'" says Simon. "She told me later that she said yes on the first page, because the woman that I described was her mother. Her mother was a cook and a nanny for a Jewish lawyer and a nanny for a Jewish lawyer for many years, and they had a wonderful employer-employee relationship. It was fortuitous that I described Clemma as wearing a yellow ribbon in her hair; Scottie said, 'That's what my mother wore.' After she read for the part, she said, 'You could have gone wrong, but you didn't.'" Because five of the nine characters in Proposals are in their twenties, Simon thought it was important that the director be someone not from his own generation, someone who could infuse a youthful perspective to the play. His wife suggested Joe Mantello, who so impressed both of them with work on Terrence McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion! Immediately, Simon agreed. "I needed someone who was young, someone who could understand the play, and who would have the ability to stage in a contemporary way," he says. "Many of the directors I've worked with in the past are older, and as good as they were, I wanted a whole new viewpoint on this play, somebody who was going to add something to my own way of thinking." Simon's plays have been a perennial part of the Broadway landscape ever since the premiere of Come Blow Your Horn in 1961. He began his career at a time when Broadway was as welcoming to the new play as it was to the new musical. But much has changed during the ensuing 37 years, and Simon believes that if he were starting out today, things would be very different for him. 16 WWW.PLAYBILL.COM [[symbol]] PURE THEATRE ONLINE "I'd have no career," he says. "I've thought about this a lot. I would say that int he world we're living in today, about 15 of my 30 plays wouldn't get produced on Broadway because they were small plays. They would be done Off-Broadway, but we're talking about Broadway. That's the goal for everyone who comes to New York with a theatrical piece. They want to go to Broadway with it. I had Michael Gambon set to do London Suite, but when he found we were doing ti Off-Broadway, he said, 'No, thank you.'" America's most popular and prolific playwright turned 70 on July 4, and he admits that his passion for the process of getting a show up is not quite as intense as it was. "I don't know how many more plays I'll be able to do," he says. "I would say not a lot. It's not because I don't have a desire to write. But they take too long. I now spend two or three years working on a play, which wasn't true before. There are more problems today. It took us a year to cast Proposals; we'd find people, and they'd say, 'I just got a role in a movie.' So you're bucking that. Times are changing. But I have no complaints. I've had a full career. And I'm not so sure that I can stop writing plays." During the period that Simon was working on Proposals, he also wrote a sequel to perhaps his most famous work, The Odd Couple. The Odd Couple II reunites Jack Lemmon and Walter Mattau as Felix and Oscar. "They're on a the road, lost in California, trying to get to the wedding of their children," says Simon. "They might as well be in the Gobi Desert. They are so quintessentially New York. I loved doing it. It was like going back to visit my best friends. They're the same today as they were then. They're the kinds of people, as there are in the world, that never change." Unlike their creator. [[image]] PARLIAMENT MENTHOL LIGHTS [[image]] [[copyright]] Philip Morris Inc. 1997 A2 11 mg "tar," 0.8 mg nicotine av, per cigarette by FTC method. SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.