Elizabeth Swados was an American writer, composer, musician, and theatre director. She grew up in Buffalo, New York with her parents and brother, Lincoln. Her father, Robert O. Swados, was a prominent attorney and her mother was an actress and poet. Her mother and brother suffered from mental health issues and her mother took her own life after a long struggle with depression in 1974.
Swados studied music and creative writing at Bennington College in Vermont and graduated with a Bachelor of Art in 1973. During her studies, she became involved with La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City. Swados worked on developing a new sensory language that used sound, rhythm, and movement to transcend speech. Many of Swados’ works were musicals that drew from folk and world music, rather than traditional musical theatre sounds.
Her first Broadway success was withRunaways at the Public Theatre, a musical about runaways and homeless youth in New York City. Some of Swados’ other musicals include Doonesbury, The Beautiful Lady, and Rap Master Ronnie. As an actress, Swados made many appearances on various daytime soap operas including All My Children, General Hospital and The Young and the Restless. As an author, Swados published three novels, three non-fiction, and nine children’s books. One of her books, My Depression: A Picture Book, was turned into an animated short film and was an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival.
Elizabeth Swados was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Ford Fellowship, and an International PEN Citation, among many other awards. The Tony nominated director taught at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and at The New School’s Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts. Elizabeth Swados died at the age of 64 due to complications following an operation for esophageal cancer. After her death, a grant for arts education was established in her honour and a revival production of Runaways was presented as part of the New York City Centre “ Encores! Off-Centre” series.
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