I Will Be Cleopatra is the title of actress Zoe Caldwell's new memoir, and, indeed, she was, and a famous one. How that bit of casting came about and what led up to it are covered in the slim new book, released by W.W. Norton and Company, Inc. Zoe Caldwell is an exclusively theatrical phenomenon. Her film and television appearances have been scarce, but her Broadway turns are legend (though also relatively few). The joke goes that whenever Caldwell graces a stage she wins a Tony Award. She has collected four in total, most recently for playing Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's Master Class. Other triumphs include Medea and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
I Will Be Cleopatra is part of the Norton "Lecture Series," and began life as a series of three lectures Caldwell gave at the New York Public Library in October 2001. The first section of the book covers her early years, from 1933 to 1957. Part two looks at the years 1958-65, and the final section examines only 1965-67, featuring her Broadway debut and her performance as Queen of the Nile.
Among the topics addressed are Caldwell's upbringing in Depression-era Australia, where her father was a plumber, her mother a taxi dancer; her tenure at Stratford-on-Avon; her work at the Guthrie Theatre, where she was a founding member; and her involvement with Canada's Stratford Festival.
Caldwell is married to the producer Robert Whitehead and has two sons, one of them, Sam, the former theatre editor of Time Out New York.
—By Robert Simonson