Swados, Elizabeth

Composer, playwright, orchestrator, director, and author of 6 children’s books and over directed over 30 plays. Born February 5, 1951 in Buffalo, NY. She went to Bennington College studying classical music. In the 1960s she was an activist playing folk music at political events and in coffeehouses. Winner of 3 Obie Awards and 5 Tony Award nominations. She won Outer Critics Circle Awards, a PEN Citation, and an Anne Frank National Foundation for Jewish Culture award. She also received a Ford Foundation Fellowship, a Guggenheim, a Covenant and a Spielberg grant. Composed music for the American Repertory Theatre including The Merchant of Venice, The Good Woman of Setzuanand Jacques and His Master. She wrote some Broadway shows, incidental music for film and television productions. Over a twenty-five year period, she’s composed music for theater including Runaways (1978), Doonesbury (1983), Rap Master Ronnie (1984) and incidental music for The Cherry Orchard and Agamemnon both in 1977. She premiered “Missionaries” in November, 1997. In “The Hating Pot”, Swados directed a play dealing with racism. Of that she said:” I was distressed by what seemed to be a resurgence of blatant anti-Semitism and race hatred in our country, and particularly in young people. It seemed to me that words and ideas were being thrown around without any sense of history or the ramifications. Since I am a Jew, I was particularly sensitive to the relations between Blacks and Jews which have reached an unnecessary boiling point. But I found that the name-calling, stereotyping and shallow thinking applied to all outsiders – anyone strange or unconventional. Therefore, I used my knowledge of the roots of anti-Semitism as a basis for opening up a dialogue in improvisation, music, composition and movement, and hoped that many kids from all over the world would help me understand why we hate.” (from http://www.usanetwork.com/functions/justone/universality2.html, accessed, 11/03/02) She writes Jewish-themed music, basing some musical theater works on Biblical stories, such as “A Circus” based on Job, “Esther” and “Haggadah”. In her oratorio, “Jerusalem”, she attempts to combine liturgy, poetry and biblical texts. Her CD “Bible Women”, ommissioned by Ma’yan in 1994, received tremendous interest in the press. Her film credits include “The Adventures of Sebastian Cole” (1999). in 2002, she was appointed to serve as the Rabbi Sally J. Priesand Visiting Professor of Jewish Women’s Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion where she will direct a production of “The Haggadah”. Her children’s book Dreamtective is being turned into a Disney production. Her new works include Hey, You Come Here, a new children’s book, and The Three Gods, a music work based on Judith in the Bible.