Karen Walsh Rullman passed away May 30 after battling colon cancer. Her struggle with the illness didn’t prevent the artist from continuing life as a working actor or inspiring thousands through her Instagram photo series.
Even while enduring regular chemotherapy treatments, Ms. Walsh worked as the standby for Mary Louise Parker in this past season’s Heisenberg on Broadway.
Throughout her career, Roundabout Theatre Company had been an artistic home; she appeared in five Roundabout productions in the past ten years. Often working as a standby or understudy, Ms. Walsh covered Law & Order’s Annie Parisse in Prelude to a Kiss, Claire Danes in Pygmalion, Carla Gugino in The Road to Mecca, and more. She also performed in Roundabout’s Machinal and Suddenly Last Summer.
On August 14, Roundabout will host a memorial event at 2 PM at the American Airlines Theatre to honor her memory.
According to a press statement, “Artists with whom she worked alongside are expected to contribute to the celebration of Karen’s life and artistry.” One such artist is Tony-nominated choreographer Sam Pinkleton (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812), who worked with Ms. Walsh on Machinal and will direct the memorial. Pinkleton inspired a new creative direction for the aforementioned Instagram series where Ms. Walsh snapped photos of herself and friends during her treatments. Ms. Walsh told Playbill about Pinkleton’s first visit to one of her treatments and how the photo series began: “I said, ‘You know you’re going to have to do a picture with me,’ and he said, ‘Well, if we’re going to do a picture, we may as well make it interesting.’ A lá Sam— he can do anything, which is why I love working with him so much—he got me up on the ledge.”
Once Pinkleton got involved, the photos began to showcase Ms. Walsh and fellow actors—often dressed in themed costumes—to illustrate that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean a life of sadness. On the one-year anniversary of her treatments, Ms. Walsh gathered a group of Broadway professionals and cancer survivors to pose with her in a glam photo shoot directed by Pinkleton.
During her life, Ms. Walsh was named an American Cancer Society Mother of the Year and an Ambassador for the 80% by 2018 initiative to get 80% of the eligible population screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.
For more information about 80% by 2018, click here.