Producer: Isabel Cristina Legarda Music Director: Joel Sindelar
Photo (c) Dixie Sheridan. Used by permission.
Elizabeth Swados has been composing, writing, and directing for over three decades. Her 1978 Broadway musical Runaways was nominated for Tony awards in several categories - best book, score, direction, and choreography as well as best musical. Her other works include Alice at the Palace starring Meryl Streep, Rap Master Ronnie, Bible Women, Atonement, Jabu, and Kasper Hauer: a foundling's opera. She is also an acclaimed author whose book My Depression earned a Ken Award. Other notable books include the theater textbook At Play: Teaching Teenagers Theatre and The One and Only Human Galaxy, a collection of poetry. She is the recipient of the Helen Hayes Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Ford Grant, a PEN Citation, and three Obie Awards. She is also the first non-Catholic to receive a MIRA Award for her strong portrayal of women religious in Missionaries. She is currently on the faculty of the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.
Of her work on Missionaries Swados has said, "I'm a Jew and I did it for Jewish reasons. We're not supposed to forget. We're supposed to seek justice. We're supposed to speak out...If there's any kind of prayer, I believe it's in song, in music...Music is universal. It can touch an unconscious nerve."
Missionaries weaves together the sounds of Catholic liturgy and Latin American folk music and draws from the sermons of Oscar Romero and Rutilio Grande; the letters, journals, and biographies of Jean Donovan, Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, and another Maryknoll sister, Carla Piette; and the poetry of American and Salvadoran activists and freedom fighters, including Miguel Huezo Mixco, Roberto Saballos, Jaime Suárez Quemain, and Carolyn Forché. Their story is a reminder that atrocities and human rights violations continue throughout the world today. Swados has explained that for her, Missionaries and its companion work, Ten Years of Hope, are a mitzvah: an offering and a remembrance calling us all to a deeper awareness of truth, justice, and reverence for life.