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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Rest in Peace, Elizabeth Swados

Swados in 1987. Photo: Tom Arma

Elizabeth Swados, born in Buffalo, NY in 1954, passed away on January 4, 2016. While best known for her Tony-nominated Broadway success, Runaways (1978), she had a long and rich history at BAM.

Elizabeth Swados first appeared at BAM in 1973 during a residency of Peter Brook's groundbreaking International Centre for Theatre Research. Here is a clip of Liz “conducting” the participants in an unusual and stunningly beautiful vocal performance.

As composer, director, and author, Swados returned to BAM twice. In the 1987 Next Wave Festival, she presented Swing, which featured a cast of teenage musicians and dancers from across New York City.

Swados and the cast of Swing, BAM Next Wave 1987. Photo: Martha Swope Associates/Linda Alaniz

Liz was the epitome of the downtown New York artist, working in numerous genres. Her musical composition style had great range—from delicate and melodic to improvisational and avant-garde. She created experimental musical theater that dealt with social and political issues. Her work was performed in important venues throughout New York, from La MaMa to the Village Gate to the Public Theatre. She also published a number of children's books.

At BAM, she also developed and presented schooltime performances and participated in numerous talks. The 1997 Next Wave Festival presented Swados' Missionaries, a requiem for the martyrdom of four missionary women murdered in El Salvador in 1980. Swados—and her politically conscientious work which embraced the disenfranchised—will be deeply missed.

Swados' Missionaries, BAM Next Wave 1997. Photo: W. Murray

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