History-making Dallas actress lays out her other dream roles
Though A Christmas Carol has been a longstanding Dallas Theater Center tradition, the company is always on the lookout for ways to shake up the holiday classic. Last year it was with the show's first female director, DTC Brierley Resident Acting Company member Christie Vela, and this year it's with the first female Scrooge, played by Sally Nystuen Vahle.
Vahle, also a member of the Brierley Resident Acting Company, takes on Charles Dickens' miserly, selfish, and cold-hearted main character from November 30-December 28 at the Wyly Theatre.
This year directed by Steven Michael Walters, the production once again features Beowulf Boritt's industrial set and Jeremy Allen Dumont's choreography. A cast of DTC regulars, SMU students, and adorable youths use artistic director Kevin Moriarty's adapted and speedy — the show is only about 90 minutes — script.
Before Vahle slips on Scrooge's famous nightcap and journeys to Christmases past, present, and future, she took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun, and sometimes ridiculous questions.
Name: Sally Nystuen Vahle
Role in A Christmas Carol: Scrooge
Previous work in the DFW area: Co-founder of Kitchen Dog Theater, member of the Brierley Resident Acting Company at Dallas Theater Center. Most recent previous role: Medea in Medea at Dallas Theater Center.
Hometown: Menomonie, Wisconsin
Where you currently reside: Junius Heights, East Dallas
First theater role: Ngana, the little girl in the musical South Pacific
First stage show you ever saw: The first professional show was Foxfire at the Guthrie Theatre.
Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: Officially, my freshman year in college, when I decided to change my major from broadcast journalism to theater.
Most challenging role you’ve played: This is a tough one. Each role is challenging in its own way, but it's probably a toss-up between Macbeth in A Macbeth or Medea.
Special skills: Audio prompting and whitewater canoeing.
Something you’re REALLY bad at: Saying “no” and learning choreography. It takes me 10 times as long as everyone else!
Current pop culture obsession: The Walking Dead
Last book you read:Head Hunters of the Amazon by Up De Graff (1925). It's a book I found at an estate sale that turned out to be a wild read.
Favorite movie(s):Cool Hand Luke, Terms of Endearment, Where to Invade Next, Captain Fantastic
Favorite musician(s): The Fray, Tupac, Frank Ocean, Prince, Drake, Dan Fogelberg
Favorite song: "Annie's Song" by John Denver
Dream role(s): Winnie in Happy Days by Beckett; Amanda in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams; Masha in Chekhov’s The Three Sisters; Martha in Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf; King Lear in Shakespeare’s King Lear; Violet in Lett’s August: Osage County.
Favorite play(s):Angels in America, Parts 1 & 2 by Tony Kushner and Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris
Favorite musical(s):Cabaret, Chicago, Guys and Dolls, Hamilton
Favorite actors/actresses: Meryl Streep, Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Albert Finney, Cherry Jones, Jessica Tandy, Violet Davis, Chamblee Ferguson
Favorite food: Pizza
Must-see TV show(s):The Walking Dead
Something most people don’t know about you: I would be very content to live off the grid.
Place in the world you’d most like to visit: India
Pre-show warm-up: Lots of stretching and focus work
Favorite part about your current role: Getting to create and embody a character that I never imagined playing.
Most challenging part about your current project: Scrooge spends lots of time listening, observing, and processing information — so, staying present and fully engaged in her journey of discovery as if it’s the “first time” is a fantastic challenge and exercise.
Most embarrassing onstage mishap: When I was in third grade, I was in a class play called Terry and the Tooth-Fairy. I played Terry, a girl who was 16 who didn’t use fluoride and had to go back to being 8-years-old to learn how to take better care of her teeth.
When I took off the costume of the 16-year-old Terry to reveal the clothes of the 8-year-old Terry, my shirt stuck to the dress and came off with it. I was in front of the whole school without my shirt on. I ran and hid under the teacher's desk.
I grew up in a small town and the people I was in third grade with I graduated from high school with, so at least once a year from third grade on, someone would remind me of that stellar moment. Somehow, even after that experience, I still decided to be an actor. Go figure.
Career you’d have if you weren’t in theater: Psychologist
Favorite post-show spot: Lakewood Landing
Favorite thing about Dallas-Forth Worth: The incredible people that make up the Metroplex and the growing cultural landscape.
Most memorable theater moment: Dallas Theater Center produced Kushner’s Angels in America in 1996. Many people found the play to be controversial. On opening night there were protests outside the Kalita Humphreys Theater, and Dallas Police officers stood at the back of the theater during the entire show in case it needed to be stopped due to “indecency and inappropriate content.”
It was thrilling to have been part of that play and that experience — the not knowing whether or not we’d get to finish the play as we were performing it was an experience unlike any other I have ever had as an actress. The show wasn’t stopped and turned out to be a blockbuster for DTC.
Dallas Theater Center's production of A Christmas Carol runs November 30-December 28 at the Wyly Theatre.