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Zoe Caldwell, a Four-Time Tony-Winning Broadway Legend, Has Died at 86

Caldwell was last seen on Broadway as Maria Callas in the original production of Terrence McNally's Master Class.

Zoe Caldwell, winner of four Tony Awards throughout her five-decade career, has died at 86.
(© David Gordon)

Four-time Tony Award-winning actor Zoe Caldwell died on Sunday, February 16, at her home in Pound Ridge, New York. The cause, according to Caldwell's son Charlie Whitehead, was complications due to Parkinson's disease. She was 86.

Caldwell was born September 14, 1933, in Melbourne, Australia, to plumber and ballroom bouncer Edgar Caldwell and Zoe Hivon, a taxi dancer. She began her professional career at age 9 in a production of Peter Pan and went on to appear in productions at Melbourne's Union Theatre Repertory Company and the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company.

In 1959, she moved to London to join the Royal Shakespeare Company, and in 1963, she joined the company at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis in its inaugural season. She made her Broadway debut in 1965 in The Devils, returning the following year in Slapstick Tragedy, a double-bill of Tennessee Williams one-act plays, for which she earned her first Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. She went on to win three more Tony Awards for her performances in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1968), Medea (1982), and Master Class (1995), leading the cast as Maria Callas opposite Audra McDonald, who also earned a Tony Award for her performance as Sharon.

Caldwell married theater producer and director Robert Whitehead in 1968, and they remained married until his death in 2002. She is survived by two sons, Sam and Charlie Whitehead, as well as two young grandchildren, Ross and Ward Whitehead.

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