Zoe Caldwell

Zoe Caldwell, OBE (born Ada Caldwell, 14 September 1933) is an Australian actress. She is a four-time Tony Award winner, winning Best Featured Actress in a Play for Slapstick Tragedy (1966), and Best Actress in a Play for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1968), Medea (1982), and Master Class (1996). Her film appearances include The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Birth (2004), and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011). She is also the voice of the Grand Councilwoman in the Lilo & Stitch franchise.

Zoe Caldwell
Ada Caldwell

(1933-09-14) 14 September 1933
ResidencePound Ridge, New York, U.S.[1]
Years active1953–present
Robert Whitehead
(m. 1968; died 2002)

Early life

Caldwell was born in Melbourne, Victoria and raised in the suburb of Balwyn. Her father, Edgar, was a plumber.[2] Caldwell's mother often took some of the neighbourhood kids to the Elizabethan Theatre in Richmond where they could go backstage and watch rehearsals and performances.[3][4]


Caldwell began her career in Melbourne in the 1950s and early 1960s, performing with the newly formed Union Theatre Repertory Company (later the Melbourne Theatre Company).[5]

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 were among the other newcomers 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. Her career later brought her to America, where she was one of the original company of actors under Guthrie's direction at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. At the Guthrie, she played parts such as Ophelia in Hamlet and Natasha in Three Sisters.

A life member of the Actors Studio,[6] Caldwell 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, including her role as Cleopatra in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra opposite Christopher Plummer's Mark Antony in 1967.[7]

Other credits on Broadway include Arthur Miller's The Creation of the World and Other Business in which she played Eve, a one-woman play by William Luce based on the life of Lillian Hellman and a production of Macbeth with Christopher Plummer as Macbeth and Glenda Jackson as Lady Macbeth under Caldwell's direction. Caldwell directed, Off-Broadway, a two-woman play, created by Eileen Atkins, Vita and Virginia, based on the letters between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. Atkins played Virginia and Vanessa Redgrave played Vita. Caldwell directed the Broadway production of Othello in the late 1970s with James Earl Jones, Christopher Plummer, and Dianne Wiest. She helmed the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut for two limited-run seasons as its Artistic Director in the mid-1980s.

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 voiced the character of the Grand Councilwoman in Disney's Lilo & Stitch, and continued voicing the character in the franchise's later films and in Lilo & Stitch: The Series, as well as in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep.[8] She appeared in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close in 2011.

Personal life

Caldwell graduated from Methodist Ladies' College, Kew and, much later, received an honorary degree from the University of Melbourne. In 1968, she married Canadian-born Broadway producer Robert Whitehead, a cousin of actor Hume Cronyn. They had two sons and were married until Whitehead's death in June 2002.[9]



1959A Midsummer Night's DreamFairyTelevision film
1961MacbethLady MacbethTelevision film
1964Dear LiarMrs. Patrick CampbellTelevision film
1968The Secret of MichelangeloNarratorTelevision film
1983MedeaMedeaTelevision film
1985The Purple Rose of CairoThe Countess
1989Lantern HillMrs. KennedyTelevision film
2002Lilo & StitchGrand Councilwoman (voice)
2003Stitch! The MovieGrand Councilwoman (voice)Direct-to-video
2004BirthMrs. Hill
2004Stitch's Great Escape!Grand Councilwoman (voice)Short film
2006Leroy & StitchGrand Councilwoman (voice)Direct-to-video
2011Extremely Loud & Incredibly CloseOskar's Grandmother

Theatre Credits

2003 The Visit Claire Zachanassian Melbourne Theatre Company
2003The Play What I WroteMystery Guest Star - replacementLyceum Theater
1995-1997Master ClassMaria CallasJohn Golden Theater - Tony Award
1991Park Your Car In Harvard YardDirectorMusic Box Theater
1988MacbethDirectorMark Hellinger Theatre
1986LillianLillianEthel Barrymore Theater
1982MedeaMedeaCort Theater - Tony Award
1977An Almost Perfect PersonDirectorBelasco Theater
1974Dance of DeathAliceVivian Beaumont Theater
1972The Creation of the World and Other BusinessEveShubert Theater
1968The Prime of Miss Jean BrodieJean BrodieHelen Hayes Theater - Tony Award
1966Slapstick TragedyPollyLongacre Theater - Tony Award
1965The DevilsSister Jean of the Angels - replacementBroadway Theatre


1960BBC Sunday Night PlayRuth HoneywillEpisode: "Twentieth Century Theatre: Justice"
1960ITV PlayhouseLouiseEpisode: "The Song of Louise in the Morning"
1960SuspenseKathy HarrigtonEpisode: "Flight 404"
1960Theatre 70Episode: "The Neighbour"
1963FestivalEpisode: "The Doctor's Dilemma"
1964PlaydateStreetwalkerEpisode: "A Night Out"
1971Great PerformancesSarah BenhardtEpisode: "Sarah ... Sarah Benhardt"
1978Play of the MonthMme. ArkadinaEpisode: "The Seagull"
1986American MastersCarlotta Monterey O'NeillEpisode: "Eugene O'Neill: A Glory of Ghosts"
1990Road to AvonleaOld Lady LloydEpisode: "Old Lady Lloyd"
2003Lilo & Stitch: The SeriesGrand Councilwoman (voice)Episode: "Finder: Experiment #428"

Video Games

2002Disney's Stitch: Experiment 626Grand Councilwomancredit only
2010Kingdom Hearts Birth by SleepGrand Councilwoman


  • Caldwell, Zoe (2001). I will be Cleopatra: An Actress's Journey. Melbourne: Text Publishing. ISBN 1-877008-03-6.


  1. "Happy Birthday To Pound Ridge's Zoe Caldwell". poundridge.dailyvoice.com. 30 September 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  2. Nightingale, Benedict. Her Infinite Variety, The New York Times, 21 October 2001; accessed 27 May 2008.
  3. "Zoe Caldwell's honorary degree". University of Melbourne. Archived from the original on 30 August 2006. Retrieved 13 November 2006.
  4. "New York State Writers Institute on Caldwell". State University of New York. Archived from the original on 31 October 2006. Retrieved 13 November 2006.
  5. "Zoe Caldwell". AusStage. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  6. Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of the Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of the Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 277. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  7. https://archives.stratfordfestival.ca/AIS/Details/people/5706
  8. "Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep details". IMDb. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  9. Gussow, Mel. "Robert Whitehead, Who Brought Top Playwrights to Broadway, Dies at 86" The New York Times, 17 June 2002; accessed 27 January 2014.
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