Zoe Caldwell, 4-Time Tony-Winning Actor, Dies at Age 86

Obituaries   Zoe Caldwell, 4-Time Tony-Winning Actor, Dies at Age 86
 
Ms. Caldwell earned Tony Awards for Slapstick Tragedy, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Medea, and Master Class.
Zoe Caldwell
Zoe Caldwell in Master Class Jay Thompson

Zoe Caldwell, a four-time Tony Award winner, died at 86 on February 16. The cause of death was complications due to Parkinson’s disease, according to her son, Charlie Whitehead.

Caldwell earned her four Tony Awards for Tennessee Williams' short-lived Slapstick Tragedy (1966), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1968), Medea (1982), and as Maria Callas in Master Class (1995).

READ: Zoe Caldwell: The Mistress of Master

Playing Jean Brodie brought Ms. Caldwell national attention, with Clive Barnes writing in the New York Times that she possessed the ability to "demand and get the audience's sympathy" and claimed she was "surrounded with an air of ineffable confidence." Her performance and the show were chronicled in William Goldman's book The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway.

In addition to a memorable turn on Broadway as Lillian Hellman in Lillian, Ms. Caldwell was also a director on Broadway (An Almost Perfect Person in 1977, Macbeth in 1988, and 1991's Park You Card in Harvard Yard) and Off-Broadway (1980's These Men and 1994's Vita & Virginia).

Born September 14, 1933, in Melbourne, Australia, Ms. Caldwell began her professional career at age nine. She joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1959, and went on to make her Broadway debut in 1965's The Devils. Her memoir, I Will Be Cleopatra, was released in 2001.

Ms. Caldwell also had a memorable late-career turn in 2011 with David Admjmi's Elective Affinities, a site-specific solo work in an apartment on the Upper East Side that found her serving tea and sandwiches to just 30 audience members per performance.

Married to producer and director Robert Whitehead from 1968 until his death in 2002, Ms. Caldwell is survived by two sons, Sam and Charlie Whitehead, and grandchildren Ross and Ward Whitehead.

Though her appearances on Broadway were the stuff of legend, they were fairly scant. But as she told Playbill during her run in Master Class, "What I'm really looking forward to, after Master Class has run its course, is a nice, long cruise with my husband. We travel a lot. I don't want to just be always working. I also have a very good life with Robert, and that's very important to me."

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