Sally Christianssen, aka, Sarah Louise Christianssen, died at 75 years of age, on Sunday, May 17, 2020, in Upland, CA. As a gifted actress and artist, a singer of opera and Broadway musicals, a ballet dancer, and a teacher, she touched our hearts, enriched our lives, and gave joy and fun to us all.
She was born somewhere in Brooklyn, N.Y. around July 15, 1944. We cannot be sure because she was an abandoned child, brought into Cardinal Spellman’s Foundling Hospital on August, 28, 1944, so she was named Augusta after St. Augustine! She didn’t know her ethnicity until her DNA was tested late in life, which established that she was Dutch. However, she was adopted into a Boston Brahmin family who had links to the British Royal Family, through William Brewster, the leader of the pilgrims on the Mayflower. Ironically, she is listed in “Americans of Royal Descent” and in “Burke’s Peerage of Great Britain” as an heir to the throne of England.
Her talent for singing and acting was known in her early childhood. She was trained to sing by the renowned Belgian tenor, Rene Maison, who sang all over Europe as well as the Metropolitan Opera in NY, and taught at the Juilliard School of Performing Arts in NY. She danced with the Joffrey Ballet of NY while in High School, until she was dropped on stage while dancing the Nutcracker, injuring her back. She graduated in 1964 from The American Academy of Dramatic Art, in NY, the oldest and most prestigious school for the theatre arts in America. She played in Summer stock in Flint, Michigan, and then acted in The Fantastics, which is still playing on Broadway, and is the longest running show in NY history.
She married The Rev. Paul J. Christianssen, an Episcopal priest, on Saturday, Oct. 15, in The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NY, the world’s largest Gothic Cathedral. They were married 54 years. They adopted two children: Kevin Eric in 1973, and Kirsten Elizabeth in 1977. She has six grandchildren; Kevin has Celeste Marie, Kevin Isaiah Jr, and Madelyn; Kirsten has David William, Michael Jerome, and Gabriel Allen with her husband, Michael Cox.
She spent her life contributing to the theatre. In Austin, TX, she was renowned as Peter Pan, and also founded a theatre school and a repertory theatre. In Davis, CA, she was in Davis Comic Opera, notably in their production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore. In Carmichael, CA, she founded the St. Michael’s Actors Guild, known as SMAG, which is still flourishing. While there she played God and the Virgin Mary, among other roles! In Colusa she brought new life to Stagehands, with productions of “A Bad Year for Tomatoes” and Last of the Red Hot Lovers”, In Oroville she played all three lovers. Best of all, was her role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. For five years in So. Calif, she played many roles at the Mt San Antonio Community College, in Diamond Bar, including Samuel Becket’s Endgame, for which she received an award for Excellence in Acting from The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Her high school choir in Levittown, New York won the NY state award as the best choir, and she won the award for soloist. The prize was to sing in Lincoln Center, with the NY Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein; they Hayden/s Creation.
Known for her humility, kindness, and sense of humor, she was loved by all. We are all thankful that she graced our lives. Thanks be to God. ■
06/10/2020 • WPR #2020-0707