LifeTimeline

Elizabeth "Liz" Swados

    • FEB 05

      Born

    1951
    • Graduated from Buffalo Seminary

    1968
    • Attends Bennington College & Earns an Obie Award...while still a student!

    1973
    • The Girl with the Incredible Feeling

    • Nightclub Cantata

    1977
    • Runaways

    1978
    • Alice at the Palace

    1979
    • Doonesbury Musical

    1983
    • Joins faculty at NYU

    2004
    • The Reality Show at NYU

    • My Depression: A Picture Book

    2005
    • My Depression: The Up and Down and Up of It -- Liz's picture book gets animated!

    2014
    • JAN 05

      Died

    2016
  • Taken from the cover of "The Four of Us: The Story of a Family"

    Born

    Buffalo, New York
    Elizabeth Swados was born on February 5, 1951 in Buffalo, NY, to Robert O. Swados and Sylvia Maisel. Robert was a successful attorney, and Sylvia was an actress and poet who struggled with depression and mental illness. In 1974, she committed suicide. Liz's brother, Lincoln, developed schizophrenia and died in 1989. Later in life, Liz would explore these issues, particularly mental illness, in her memoir, "The Four of Us: A Family Memoir."
    By Jaime Mishkin
  • Graduated from Buffalo Seminary

    Buffalo, New York
    In her high school year book, this was written about Liz:

    “She can face cold reality, yet she can dream in a field of flowers. She can sit in a boat and carry on a conversation with the waves; she can sit in a room full of people and make them laugh. Is anyone more alive than she?”

    (http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/o/.../-at-64-20160106)
    By Jaime Mishkin
  • Liz and Andrei (Source: http://www.sohoblues.com/)

    Attends Bennington College & Earns an Obie Award...while still a student!

    Manhattan, New York
    From 1969-1973, Swados attended Bennington College in Vermont, where she studied music and creative writing. While still an undergrad, Liz was commissioned to score Andrei Serban's adaption of Medea at La MaMa in NYC. She won an Obie Award for the score at only 21!
    By Jaime Mishkin
  • 2

    The Girl with the Incredible Feeling

    In 1977, Linda Feferman produced and directed a short animated film about Liz, who had already accomplished so much at 26, and attempted to capture her unconventional approach to life.
    By Jaime Mishkin
  • 2

    Nightclub Cantata

    Manhattan, New York
    Liz's website describes one of her earliest pieces, "Nightclub Cantata": "Comprised of twenty original songs, set to texts drawn from the works of such writers as Sylvia Plath, Muriel Rukeyser, Carson McCullers, and Swados herself, this long-run Off-Broadway success is a truly unique and creative blending of music, drama, comedy and popular entertainment."

    From the Harvard Crimson, 1977:

    "Swados has created, composed and directed 21 musical numbers--each a separate attempt to explore the many levels of human interaction through simple song and melody. Nightclub Cantata is part of her search for 'new words for music,' words, she says, 'that will not make either bad poetry or easy emotions.' Playing with a vast range of 'foreign' languages, she has set to music 'Avesta,' an old Persian cursing language, as well as jungle choruses and a bird lament." (http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1977/9/.../were-young-and/)
    By Jaime Mishkin
  • Runaways

    Manhattan, New York
    "Runaways," Liz's best known musical, premiered in 1978 at The Public Theater. It tells the story of children who have run away from home and now live on the city streets. "Runaways" came out of real interviews Liz had with runaway children, and many of them later joined the cast. Eventually, it moved uptown to Broadway and earned her five Tony nominations.

    Liz recalled in her book, "At Play: Teaching Teenagers Theater" that "little by little, we built a world where runaways came together, told their stories, and acted out the hardships they endured."

    By Jaime Mishkin
  • Alice at the Palace

    Manhattan, New York
    In 1979, Liz put on her adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland," starring a young Meryl Streep! Three years later, a TV version was broadcasted on NBC. Check out the video to watch the full-length performance!

    The New York Post reviews Liz's 1979 musical:

    "A musical adaptation based on Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. Meryl Streep made a great impression in this musical directed and produced by Joseph Papp at the Public Theatre. An extremely imaginative rendering of the Alice in Wonderland story, performed on a bare stage. The music encompasses everything from country-western to calypso, all transmogrified by Ms. Swados’ inimitable style. 'Ms. Swados’ new dramatized cantata … made me think of Carroll very deeply…. [She] magnificently catches most of Carroll’s divine nuttiness….Her best musical to date.'" (lizswados.com)
    By Jaime Mishkin
  • Doonesbury Musical

    Manhattan, New York
    Liz joined forces with Doonesbury comic creator, Garry Trudeau, to score the new musical based on the comic.

    Check out the promo video to get a taste for the musical!
    By Jaime Mishkin
  • Joins faculty at NYU

    Manhattan, New York
    In 2004, Liz joined the faculty of the Tisch School of the Arts as an Associate Teacher, and eventually became an Arts Professor in 2012.

    She was a beloved, unforgettable drama teacher to many. Below are a few memories from her former students:

    “During one of the first music rehearsals we had for the first show I did with Liz, The Stinky Cheese Man, she stopped our music director mid-verse and had him play the whole verse again. She began harmonizing, on the spot, and insisted he write it out as she hummed. He played along with her for a few bars, then said 'Liz, you wrote this already. It's on the sheet music.' She was silent for a second, then said 'Oh. Then keep going!'

    "There was a part of Liz that existed in a realm beyond what most of us could comprehend, and it's that part that made her so brilliant. She pushed every person she worked with to be braver, sillier, more unafraid than they ever thought possible, and produced countless great works and performances because of it. I will miss that quirky, zany, wonderful woman for the rest of my life, and I can only hope that everything I do from now on would make her proud.” – Alex Andrews

    "I said I don't know how to write music, and she said yes you do, and then I was able to write music.Another favorite was "That's not you talking, that is your anxiety. Please get back to work." She always left her ego out of the room, and in doing so was able to hold a space for connected, important work to show up. She was like a portal.–Jon Garrity

    "[She was a] woman who maintained the simplest of principles of creating art and facilitating collaboration: Every Idea is a Good Idea. Don’t yuck something until you’ve tried it. Be open. Anything can be a song. Anything can be funny. For these lessons that we may believe the majority of people don’t typically learn, these lessons that her students, her artistic charges had the privilege of knowing, there is no amount of thanks that can be given which could be considered appropriate. And yet, we should try. I thank you, Liz, for allowing me to try to find hope in the world and that when I couldn’t do that, I should just have hope for today. And thank you, Liz, for encouraging me to put it into music and lyrics.” -- Ben Caplan
    By Jaime Mishkin
  • The Reality Show at NYU

    Manhattan, New York
    NYU Vice Chancellor Linda Mills recalls recruiting Liz to help create an upbeat, educational musical that addressed issues surrounding college life and mental health: "Given her unique expertise in this area, NYU recruited her in 2005 to assist in responding to a contagion of suicides on our campus that had occurred in 2003-2004. Liz created The Reality Show, with an initial cast of 10 Tisch students, that focused the attention of freshmen on their health, wellness and safety. This show has been transformative to the NYU experience, informing students of 24/7 resources and decreasing stigma in accessing mental health care. The collaborative process imaginatively incorporated the contributions of the NYU student cast members each year, setting college life issues into original music and dance vignettes with edgy humor. It has been a required component of the university’s orientation every year since 2005, and now includes versions created specifically for NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai." (http://tisch.nyu.edu/tisch-research-n/.../ts/news/Liz-Swados)
    By Jaime Mishkin
  • 2

    My Depression: A Picture Book

    In 2005, Liz released a picture book about a woman's touching yet entertaining experience with depression.

    In a Huffington Post article from 2015, Liz recalls how the book came about:

    "Six or seven years ago, a very dear friend of mine went through a particularly dark depression. I didn't know what to do or how to help. So I wrote her a book with pictures about my experiences with depression and gave it to her as a gift. The thing was, that when I looked at my own self and my own depression, it was funny. It was very sad, but it was also very funny. I went through the symptoms and the causes and the experiences that were bona fide characteristics of not just my depression, but also that of people I had known my whole life. I didn't want to write a public service announcement, so I chose to do a graphic novel using my own scratchy (but sincere) drawings. I gave the book to my friend and she loved it. Later, when she was doing better, she suggested that I try to get it published.

    "I submitted it to some publishers and was lucky enough to have Hyperion Books offer to publish it. They helped guide me to make the smooth, but rough-edged accounting of the journey that is depression. Not just my experience, but the experience of others as well. The book was well received and people felt that it represented the experience of depression for them too." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-sw/.../_7765708.html)

    Take a listen to Liz talking about her book on the Leonard Lopate Show in 2005.
    By Jaime Mishkin
  • My Depression: The Up and Down and Up of It -- Liz's picture book gets animated!

    Liz recruited Sigourney Weaver, Steve Buscemi, and Fred Armisen to voice the animated adaption of "My Depression: A Picture Book." Liz describes the feature below:

    "My Depression: The Up and Down and Up of It brings light to my decades-long struggle with depression. Poignant yet humorous, the animated short film takes an often misunderstood condition and brings greater clarity to it, illuminating the symptoms, emotions, and side effects associated with depression. From masking [my] condition, to fighting everyday emotional ups and downs, to [my] efforts to find coping mechanisms, the film uses animation, humor and song to make a difficult and sometimes taboo topic more accessible and understandable." (http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandholly/.../s-my-depression)
    By Jaime Mishkin
  • Died

    Manhattan, New York
    Ms. Swados died January 6, 2016, in Manhattan. She was 64. The cause was complications of surgery for esophageal cancer that she had in April. She is survived by her wife, Roz Lichter.

    According to Allyson Green, dean of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, "a memorial in celebration of Liz’s life and career will be announced in the coming weeks."

    Her musicals and stories have touch thousands of people around the world, and will continue for years to come.
    By Jaime Mishkin