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Zoe Caldwell
Born Ada Caldwell
September 14, 1933 (1933-09-14) (age 76)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Occupation Actress
Years active 1960–present
Spouse(s) Robert Whitehead (1968-2002)

Zoe Caldwell, OBE (born September 14, 1933) is an Australian-born actress who resides in America and has earned enormous respect for her work in the theatre, especially in New York.



She was born as Ada Caldwell in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and was raised in the suburb of Balwyn in Yongala Street. Her father, Edgar, was a plumber and her mother, Zoe, was a taxi dancer.[1]. Caldwell's mother, Zoe, had a Peugeot of 1950 vintage. She would often load some of the neighbourhood kids into it to take them to the Elizabethan Theatre in Richmond where they would go backstage and watch rehearsals and performances.[2][3]


She has won four Tony Awards for her performances on Broadway in Tennessee Williams' Slapstick Tragedy, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Medea and Master Class. In the last she portrayed opera diva Maria Callas. In Stratford, Ontario she has worked often, but she had an especial triumph playing the role of Cleopatra in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra opposite Christopher Plummer's Mark Antony in 1967. Her anecdotal biography (published by W W Norton and Co. in 2001), I will be Cleopatra: An Actress's Journey, through many roles and three continents. She emigrated to England upon being invited to join the RSC at a time when Charles Laughton was attempting Lear, and Vanessa Redgrave, Eileen Atkins, Albert Finney and Zoe herself were the spring chickens in the company. She played Bianca in the 1959 production of Othello, starring Paul Robeson. Later she played the indomitable Helena opposite Dame Edith Evans in a production of "All's Well that Ends Well". It was in this last that Zoe worked under the direction of Tyrone Guthrie whom she calls a "...pathfinder. He cut a path through the forest and all you had to do was follow it." Her career later brought her to America, where she was one of the original core of stellar actors under Guthrie's direction which established the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, where she played for a number of years, in repertory, everything from Ophelia in Hamlet to Natasha in Three Sisters.

Other credits on Broadway include Arthur Miller's The Creation of the World and Other Business in which she played Eve, a one-woman performance based on the life of Lillian Hellman and a notoriously embattled production of Macbeth in which Christopher Plummer played Macbeth and Glenda Jackson was Lady Macbeth under Zoe's conciliatory direction. Caldwell directed, off-Broadway, a two-woman play, created by Eileen Atkins, Vita and Virginia, based on the epistles (letters) between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. Atkins played Virginia and Vanessa Redgrave played Vita. Caldwell's directoral skills were also brought to bear on the well-received Broadway production of Othello in the late 1970s which starred James Earl Jones, Christopher Plummer and Dianne Weist. Zoe Caldwell helmed the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut for two limited-run seasons as its Artistic Director in the mid-1980's. She has also appeared on film, most notably as an imperious dowager in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo. In 2002 she starred in the film Just a Kiss.

She voices the character of the Grand Councilwoman in Disney's Lilo & Stitch. She originated the role in the 2002 theatrical feature and has continued it through the subsequent TV series and direct-to-video releases.

Personal life

Zoe Caldwell was married in 1968 to Canadian-born Broadway producer Robert Whitehead, a cousin of actor Hume Cronyn. They had two sons and were married until Whitehead's death in 2002. She has not remarried. The novelist Patrick White dedicated his short story, Clay to her and Barry Humphries.


  1. ^ Nightingale, Benedict. Her Infinite Variety, New York Times, October 21, 2001. Accessed May 27, 2008.
  2. ^ "Zoe Caldwell's honorary degree". University of Melbourne. Retrieved 2006-11-13. 
  3. ^ "New York State Writers Institute on Caldwell". State University of New York. Retrieved 2006-11-13. 


  • Caldwell, Zoe (2001). I will be Cleopatra: An Actress's Journey. Melbourne: Text Publishing. ISBN 1877008036. 

External links



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