Elizabeth Swados Dies at 64

Elizabeth Swados Dies at 64

Elizabeth Swados Dies at 64 at Theatregold.com


Elizabeth Swados (February 5, 1951 – January 5, 2016) was 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 darker issues such as racism, murder and mental illness. Elizabeth, passed away after complications of surgery for esophageal cancer that she had undergone in April, her wife, Roz Lichter, said. (NYT)

Born February 5, 1951 in Buffalo, New York, Swados wrote about her life in her 1991 autobiography, The Four of Us, A Family Memoir, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 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. His autobiography, Counsel in the Crease: A Big League Player in the Hockey Wars was published by Prometheus Books in 2005.

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 suffered from depression, a condition she discussed in her book, My Depression: A Picture Book. 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.

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 in May 1978. She received 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.


Runaways Opens on the West Coast at theatregold.com

Runaways opens west coast.

She composed music for film (such as 1981’s Four Friends) and television (such as Seize the Day in 1987) and performed at Carnegie Hall. In 1984 she composed the music for Gary Trudeau’s satirical musical “Rap Master Ronnie.” She published three novels, three non-fiction books and nine children’s books. She was 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 taught 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 Theatres. Her articles have been published in the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Vogue, O and numerous other publications.

Holding the Man on DVD Here