Dallas ‘Best Actress,’ Sally Nystuen Vahle, Among Ten Actors Chosen for Prestigious Fellowship

Dallas Theater Center actor Sally Nystuen Vahle (the recipient of our 2010 best actress nod) is one of ten actors in the United States chosen as a 2011 Lunt-Fontanne Fellow. The fellowship, in its third year, is named after legendary Broadway couple Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, and it comes with an acting workshop with an acclaimed performer. This year, Academy Award-winner Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck) will lead the ten actors through Chekhov.

According to Sean Malone, President of Ten Chimneys Foundation, “The Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program celebrates the top actors in America’s top theatre communities – widely respected for their talent, dedication to craft, and passionate pursuit of excellence, the qualities for which Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were so revered.  This program celebrates people like Sally Nystuen Vahle – the best of the best, our communities’ theatre mentors.” 

A full release is after the jump.

(Pictured: Sally Nystuen Vahle (left) and Olympia Dukakis)

Dallas Theater Center’S Sally Nystuen Vahle



Vahle to participate in Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program
with actress OLYMPIA DUKAKIS at historic TEN CHIMNEYS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 6, 2010 (Lynn Fontanne’s Birthday) 

On December 6, 2010 (on what would have been Lynn Fontanne’s 123rd birthday), Ten Chimneys Foundation announced that Dallas actor Sally Nystuen Vahle has been selected as a 2011 Lunt-Fontanne Fellow.  Nominated by Dallas Theater Center, Ms. Vahle is one of only ten actors in the entire country who will participate in the 2011 Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program, a widely acclaimed national program to serve the future of American theatre.  Next summer (July 24-31, 2011), Vahle and the other selected Lunt-Fontanne Fellows will join Academy Award-winning actress Olympia Dukakis for an intensive weeklong master class and immersion experience at Ten Chimneys, the National Historic Landmark estate of Broadway legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin (just outside of Milwaukee).  

This will be the third year of the groundbreaking Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship program.  During the first two years, the top regional theatre actors in the U.S. spent the artistic portion of their Ten Chimneys immersion delving into Shakespeare – with the late actress Lynn Redgrave in 2009, and renowned Shakespearean Barry Edelstein in 2010.  In 2011, the ten selected Lunt-Fontanne Fellows will explore Chekhov, led by revered actress and revered Chekhov expert, Olympia Dukakis.

“I am proud to be a part of this program, which is so important to the future of American theatre, and am eager to work with the selected 2011 Lunt-Fontanne Fellows. With Chekhov, our hearts will open with compassion and reverence for life in all its contradictions.”

– Olympia Dukakis, 2011 Master Teacher

“Sally Nystuen Vahle is an exceptional artist who has vast experience, ferocious talent, and keen understanding of what an individual actor can bring to a play, a creative process, and an acting company to create art that is richer and deeper than its individual parts.  Sally is truly one of the finest artists in Dallas. When we’re fortunate to work with her on a project, she makes all of us better.”

– Kevin Moriarty, Artistic Director, Dallas Theater Center

In addition to the honor of being selected as a Lunt-Fontanne Fellow, and the inherent value and benefits of the master class and immersion experience, Ms. Vahle will be awarded a $2,500 cash fellowship in recognition of her exceptional contribution to her community and to the overall quality of American theatre.  According to Sean Malone, President of Ten Chimneys Foundation, “The Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program celebrates the top actors in America’s top theatre communities – widely respected for their talent, dedication to craft, and passionate pursuit of excellence, the qualities for which Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were so revered.  This program celebrates people like Sally Nystuen Vahle – the best of the best, our communities’ theatre mentors.”

For the 2011 Fellowship Program, Ten Chimneys Foundation selected nine of the top regional theatres in the country to serve as Partner Theatres – to identify America’s top stage actors, its “theatre mentors.”  Each Partner Theatre was invited to nominate the “master actors” of their communities, to be considered for recognition as Lunt-Fontanne Fellows.  Selected with the guidance of a National Advisory Board, following are the ten actors who have been selected as the 2011 Lunt-Fontanne Fellows, along with their nominating Partner Theatres:













The one-of-a-kind Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program takes place within the rooms of National Historic Landmark Ten Chimneys – the estate lovingly created by Broadway legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, widely considered the greatest acting couple in the history of American theatre.  With no ropes and nothing under glass, modern-day guests at Ten Chimneys are treated to a VIP guided tour of a National Historic Landmark replete with original furnishings and overflowing with the romance of the 1930s and ’40s.  The estate is open to the public as a world-class historic site and a national resource for American theatre, and has been widely hailed as one of the most inspirational historic sites in the country.

This special home is particularly inspirational for actors.  Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne constructed their Ten Chimneys estate to be the perfect working retreat for themselves and their friends. In addition to welcoming and inspiring the best-of-the-best in American theatre, such as Helen Hayes, Noël Coward, and Katharine Hepburn, the Lunts were also known for their dedication to the next generation of actors.  Legends such as Laurence Olivier, Uta Hagen, Montgomery Clift, and Julie Harris proudly considered themselves protégés of the Lunts.  The Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program continues that tradition of mentorship at Ten Chimneys.  This historic context, and the inherent inspiration of Ten Chimneys, is why Lynn Redgrave said that “this program simply couldn’t happen anywhere else,” and why participating Fellows have all talked about the experience being “transformative.”

This celebrated and beguiling Wisconsin estate offers a one-of-a-kind environment in which to set the Fellows to work — an environment that Tony and Emmy Award winner David Hyde Pierce described as “sort of Dolley Madison meets Salvador Dali meets ‘Hello Dolly.’  It’s everything all at once.”  It truly is the place where “the mentors go to be mentored.”

“The place is a knockout, the place is beautiful, the place is inspiring, the place is transporting, the place is transformative. We have had an absolutely miraculous week here.”

— Barry Edelstein, Master Teacher, 2010





The Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program has been created by Ten Chimneys Foundation, and is made possible with the help of a generous lead grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.  In order to serve as “a continuing resource and powerful inspiration for American theatre,” Ten Chimneys Foundation leadership spent years talking to the top artists and producers of American theatre to determine the deepest needs in the industry.  One of the most pervasive and significant needs articulated was, “the top stage actors in American theatre, ‘the mentors,’ need real opportunities to be mentored.”  Ten Chimneys Foundation realized that it was uniquely positioned to fill this critical need, and began years of extensive planning to do just that.  The result was the Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program.

 “What Ten Chimneys Foundation is accomplishing with this program is truly astounding.  This kind of opportunity simply hasn’t existed before, anywhere.  And it’s so important; it’s so meaningful.”
– Lynn Redgrave (1943-2010), Inaugural Master Teacher, 2009

Through this groundbreaking national program, the top actors in the country are given a rare and deeply-needed opportunity to grow artistically, renew their passion for their art form, deepen their commitment to mentorship, and form a national community of Lunt-Fontanne Fellows.  These actors return to their home communities more inspired, and more inspiring – offering great benefits to other actors, to individual theatres, to students, to communities across the country, and to American theatre as a whole.  Ultimately, this program does not exist simply to serve actors, but to strengthen the ability of actors and theatres to enrich people’s lives in communities throughout the country.  Lunt-Fontanne Fellows do this as artists, as mentors, as teachers, and as leaders in their communities.

“It’s world-changing, broadening, mind-expanding, heart-pounding, lovely.”
2010 Fellow, Celeste Ciulla, nominated by The Old Globe

The program’s innovative approach to a deep unmet need in American theatre allows it to achieve extraordinary outcomes.  Artists are able to create, interpret, and refine their work and talent.  The critical cultural tradition of mentorship, from master to master, is preserved and reinvigorated.  When Fellows return to their home communities (as stronger artists and more passionate and committed mentors and teachers), they help their nominating theatres increase their ability to realize their artistic and public service goals.  Audiences experience those same inherent artistic benefits when they see Lunt-Fontanne Fellows perform, after their Ten Chimneys experience, as well as benefitting from seeing the work of other actors who work with these rejuvenated mentors.  And all of these outcomes help strengthen the art of theatre in major communities throughout America. 

Excitingly, the “exponential impact” of the first years of the program is happening more quickly and forcefully than expected.  Just one example: after her experience at Ten Chimneys, inaugural Fellow Naomi Jacobson, (nominated by Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.) spearheaded a significant new program in D.C. for mid-career actors.  As Naomi returned to her home theatre community, she shared: 

“This week has been more than inspirational – it’s been transformational.  Honestly, I look at my career, and really, my life now, as before-Ten Chimneys and after-Ten Chimneys.”

2010 Fellow, Naomi Jacobson, nominated by Arena Stage

Based on how the 2009 and 2010 Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program transformed some of the country’s top stage actors – and how that change has already affected theatres and communities across the country – leaders in the field are tremendously excited about the 2011 program and what it will accomplish. 

“The extraordinary accomplishments of this groundbreaking program are deeply, deeply important – to actors, to regional theatres, and to our entire field.  I am not overstating when I say that the Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program has the potential to transform American theatre.”
– Bill Rauch, Artistic Director, Oregon Shakespeare Festival



Olympia Dukakis, widely celebrated as one of the greatest American masters of interpreting and teaching the work of playwright Anton Chekhov, will be the Master Teacher for the 2011 Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program.  Ms. Dukakis has been a master teacher of acting and directing, with special emphasis on Chekhov, at Columbia, NYU, Yale, and universities and studios around the United States and Europe.  As a performer, Ms. Dukakis is best known as an Academy Award-winning film actress, garnering great popular and critical acclaim in movies such as Moonstruck, Steel Magnolias, and Mr. Holland’s Opus – as well as on the epic miniseries Tales of the City.  Ms. Dukakis is also a revered, award-winning stage actress, with New York and London credits including: The Marriage of Bette and Boo, A Man’s a Man, Curse of the Starving Class, Electra, Hecuba, Mother Courage, Peer Gynt, Titus Andronicus, Social Security, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and Rose.  She has starred in and directed multiple productions of The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull, Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya, and other plays by Chekhov.  For 15 years, Ms. Dukakis was the Artistic Director of the Whole Theatre Company, which she co-founded with her husband, actor Louis Zorich.  In addition to Chekhov, her prolific directing credits include Orpheus Descending, A Touch of the Poet, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – and she has adapted plays including Mother Courage and The Trojan Women.