Elizabeth Swados

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Elizabeth Swados (born February 5, 1951) is an American writer, composer, musician, and theatre director. While some of her subject matter is humorous, such as her satirical look at Ronald Reagan (Rap Master Ronnie) and Doonesbury — both collaborations with Garry Trudeau — much of her work deals with dark issues such as racism, murder, and mental illness.

Personal life[edit]

Born February 5, 1951 in Buffalo, New York,[1] Swados wrote about her life in her 1991 autobiography, The Four of Us, A Family Memoir, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.[2]

Her father, Robert O. Swados, was a successful attorney who helped Seymour H. Knox III convert the local Buffalo Sabres hockey club into a full National Hockey League team.[3] His autobiography, Counsel in the Crease: A Big League Player in the Hockey Wars was published by Prometheus Books in 2005.[4]

Her mother struggled with depression, while her older brother (and only sibling) Lincoln developed schizophrenia. Her mother committed suicide in 1974, and Lincoln died in 1989. Swados has suffered from depression, a condition she discussed in her book, My Depression: A Picture Book.[5]

She studied music at Bennington College in Vermont, receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1973. In 1980, the Hobart and William Smith College awarded her an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters.[citation needed]

Professional life[edit]

Although many of Swados' plays are musicals, her compositions draw from folk and world music genres rather than from standard musical theatre. Her first success, Runaways, was intended to be a community service piece with a short run. However, after appearing at The Public Theater, it transferred to Broadway and became a hit. It garnered her Tony Award nominations for Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Choreography. She was nominated for Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Director of a Musical, Outstanding Lyrics, and Outstanding Music, and won an Obie Award for her direction.

She has written music for film (Four Friends) and television, and has performed at Carnegie Hall. She has published three novels, three non-fiction books, and nine children's books. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Ford Fellowship, a Covenant Foundation Grant, a Special International PEN Citation, a Cine Award, and a Mira Award, among others.

Swados teaches in the drama department at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and at The New School's Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts as a visiting artist. Her most recent books are My Depression, Sidney's Animal Rescue, and At Play: Teaching Teenagers Theater. Her articles have been published in the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Vogue, and O.

Additional credits[edit]

  • Jumpin's Salty (1975 Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective production. Music: Elizabeth Swados. Lyrics: Eve Merriman).
  • Nightclub Cantata (1977)
  • Dispatches, a Rock & Roll War (1979)
  • Alice in Concert (1980)
  • The Haggadah, a Passover Cantata (1980)
  • Enter Life (1982)
  • Lullabye and Goodnight (1982)
  • "jerusalem" poetry by Yehuda Amichai (1984)
  • The Red Sneaks (1989)
  • Jonah (1990)
  • Groundhog (1992)
  • Conscience and Courage Cantata (1994)
  • Jabu (2005)
  • The Beauty Inside (2005)
  • Missionaries in Concert (2005)
  • Mental Missiles (2006)
  • Spider Opera (2006)
  • Kaspar Hauser (2007)
  • Resilient Souls (2010)


  1. ^ Profile, imdb.com; retrieved 2010 October 24
  2. ^ Macmillan retrieved 2010 October 24
  3. ^ The Sports Network Sabres founder Swados dies, 9news.com; retrieved November 23, 2012.
  4. ^ Barnes and Noble Synopsis and review
  5. ^ My Depression: A Picture Book, Seven Stories Press; ISBN 1609805496/ISBN 978-1609805494

External links[edit]