Elizabeth Swados

Elizabeth Swados (born 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

Born in Buffalo, New York, Swados has been open about her turbulent life in her autobiography The Four of Us, A Family Memoir published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1991. Her father Robert was a very successful attorney who helped Seymour H. Knox III convert the local Buffalo Sabres hockey club into a full National Hockey League team. (His autobiography, Counsel in the Crease: A Big League Player in the Hockey Wars was published by Prometheus Books in 2005.) Her actress mother struggled with depression, while her older brother (and only sibling) Lincoln developed schizophrenia. Her mother committed suicide in 1974, and Lincoln followed suit in 1989. Swados herself has suffered from depression from childhood on, a condition she explored in her book My Depression: A Picture Book.

Swados 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.

Professional life

Although many of Swados' plays are musicals, her compositions draw from folk and world music genres rather than from standard musical theatre. Her first major 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.

As a composer, Swados has also 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. 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. She also has collaborated on film scripts with Milos Forman, Marlon Brando, and Sean Penn.

Additional credits

  • Nightclub Cantata (1977)
  • Dispatches, a Rock & Roll War (1979)
  • Alice in Concert (1980)
  • The Haggadah, a Passover Cantata (1980)
  • Lullabye and Goodnight (1982)
  • The Red Sneaks (1989)
  • Jonah (1990)
  • Groundhog (1992)
  • Jabu (2005)
  • The Beauty Inside (2005)
  • Mental Missiles (2006)
  • Spider Opera (2006)
  • Kaspar Hauser (2007)

External links

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