Entertainment / 19-02-2020

Zoe Caldwell, 4-time Tony Award winner, dead at 86

Zoe Caldwell, 4-time Tony Award winner, dead at 86

Four-time Tony Award winner Zoe Caldwell has died. She was 86.

The performer, who brought humanity to larger-than-life-characters, whether it be the dotty schoolteacher Miss Jean Brodie, an aging opera star Maria Callas or the murderous Medea, died peacefully Sunday at her home in Pound Ridge, N.Y.

Her son Charlie Whitehead said her death was due to complications from Parkinson's disease.

Zoe Caldwell holds her award for Leading Actress in a Play for her role in "Master Class" at the 50th Annual Tony Awards in New York.  (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)

The Australian-born actress played in regional theaters around the English-speaking world before becoming the toast of Broadway in 1968, and winning her second Tony, for "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie."

Among her other characters were Cleopatra, Saint Joan, Mother Courage and authors Colette and Lillian Hellman. Over time, she accepted only roles that offer a particular challenge. If she thought, "Oh, I can do that," she didn't want to do them, she said in 1986.

Three of her four Tonys came in collaborations with her husband, Robert Whitehead, who was one of Broadway's most prolific producers of serious drama.

She cited his influence in her decision to do "Medea," the ancient Greek drama of a woman who is betrayed by her lover and kills their children in revenge. It won her a third Tony in 1982.

"Medea wasn't a character I believed in until my Robert started to talk to me about her in human terms," she told The New York Times a few days after the Tony ceremony. "I suddenly understood how a creative force of nature can become destructive if it is mucked up, polluted, depurified — like the atom."

Terrence McNally's "Master Class," which debuted on Broadway in 1995, was another joint effort with Whitehead. It won Caldwell her fourth Tony and brought Whitehead, as producer, the Tony for best play.

She played Callas as the opera superstar critiques, cajoles and inspires a trio of budding singers taking part in the uniquely intense musical education session called a master class.

"A performance is a struggle. You have to win," she said as Callas.

Then-Associated Press drama critic Michael Kuchwara called Caldwell "incandescent" and said she gave "the performance of her career."

Caldwell was born in 1933 in Melbourne, Australia, to a family struggling to make it through the Depression. In her memoir, "I Will Be Cleopatra," she wrote that she knew at an early age that her job would be "keeping audiences awake and in their seats."

"I knew this because it was the only thing I could do," she wrote. Despite the family's tight budget, the Caldwells were regular theater-goers, she wrote, and "I saw every singer, dancer, actor, or vaudevillian who came to Melbourne."

She made her stage debut at age 9 in a Melbourne production of "Peter Pan."

Her husband died in 2002 at age 86, shortly after he received a special Tony Award for his nearly 60-year career. Among his other honors were a best play Tony for "A Man for All Seasons" in 1962 and a best revival Tony for "Death of a Salesman" in 1984.

She and Whitehead had two sons, Sam and Charlie. In addition to her two sons, she is survived by two grandchildren.

“I always knew I would be an actor. I am an actor,” she told the AP in 1986. “But being a wife and a mother still seems to me to be some kind of extraordinary stuff."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

19-02-2020 08:00, source: foxnews, by James Foster
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