Elizabeth Swados

One of the youngest playwrights ever to have a play produced on Broadway, Liz Swados was unafraid of tackling heavy subjects like politics, racism, and mental illness. In 1972, while still a student at Bennington College, Swados composed the music for the Obie-winning play Medea. In 1978 her own play Runaways (starring actual street kids Swados had interviewed) made its Broadway debut, earning five Tony award nominations and winning her an Obie. She collaborated with Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau on two politically satirical plays and with Israeli poet Yehudah Amichai on Jerusalem, one of her many plays with Jewish themes. Alongside her prolific career as a playwright, she composed the music for documentaries and TV movies from 1980’s Rappaccini’s Daughter to 2014’s Refugee Kids: One Small School Takes on the World. Her explosive 1991 memoir, The Four of Us, discussed her brother’s schizophrenia, her mother’s suicide, and her own depression. She wrote numerous novels and children’s books, including Flamboyant, which drew on both her lesbian identity and her Jewish heritage, and My Depression, which she turned into an animated short in 2014. She also taught drama at both New York University and The New School, and invited several students to join her in her work over the years.


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Renowned composer Elizabeth Swados.

Photo by Dixie Sheridan.

Date of Birth

Buffalo, NY
United States

Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Elizabeth Swados." (Viewed on April 20, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/swados-elizabeth>.


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