Katelyn Walsh plays Cinderella in a production by the Premiere Playhouse in Sioux Falls SD
Back Talent

From California to New York – and now Sioux Falls – professional actress brings talent to new home

  • July 18, 2023

There were plenty of reasons Katelyn Walsh figured she wouldn’t end up moving from her home in California across the country.

Applying to New York University’s famed Tisch School of the Arts already required being accepted into one of the nation’s most competitive arts programs. Then, not only was the aspiring actress accepted to the school but also offered a spot in one of its most coveted programs and given enough financial assistance to make it a possibility.

Katelyn Walsh

“The only reason I moved was for the education,” Walsh said. “I loved performing, and this was the only thing I felt worth investing in.”

She graduated in 2022, but that was only after the pandemic upended the experience, causing her to return to California and put her senior year on hold.

Katelyn Walsh performing

“I can’t spend my senior year online,” she remembered thinking. “And that’s what they were going to have us do. Trying to dance and sing on Zoom was not really worth it to me.”

She ended up being paid to perform at a regional theater in Utah.

“I gained experience, but my mind shifted,” she said. “When I did go back for my senior year, my ability to thrive in the city had changed a lot. It was already a little scary the first three years, but I felt a lot less safe, and it got worse and worse. I’d fallen in love with the city but started falling out of love with it.”

Katelyn Walsh in front of Radio City Music Hall

Her values had evolved, she said.

“I really wanted family, and I didn’t feel safe walking other people’s kids as a nanny. How would I feel safe walking my own kids?” she said. “It wasn’t worth the sacrifice, especially since I was paying over $1,000 a month for an 8-by-8 room, and my closet was in my kitchen. My roommates loved it, but it wasn’t for me anymore.”

But returning to California wasn’t in the cards, either. Her parents had gotten an estimate on their house on a whim, “and they got way more than they expected,” Walsh said.

Their move brought them to Sioux Falls. She has grandparents originally from North Dakota, and her sister’s family lives in Bismarck.

“My parents realized ‘if our kids ever want to settle near us, we don’t want to have them settle somewhere it’s hard to raise a family financially,’” Walsh said. “The area we were in was slowly going downhill, but financially it was costing more.”

While she had no experience with Sioux Falls, the recent NYU grad decided she would move here too, keep auditioning nationally and travel for roles as needed.

Katelyn Walsh in New York City

“But as I soon as I got back to New York for an audition, my anxiety flared and put me back to where I was a year ago,” Walsh said. “And I realized I love performing. No doubt in my mind. But if I’m paid zero money performing and making money another way, I will be just as joyful as if I were paid more on a larger scale. That never mattered to me. Maybe I could do it, but I don’t think I want it.”

And that’s the story that brought her to a Sioux Falls stage, where she played the lead role this spring in The Premiere Playhouse’s “Cinderella.”

Katelyn Walsh performing in a production by the Premiere Playhouse in Sioux Falls SD

“One of my co-workers at Blarney Stone, where I’m a server, found out that I liked theater, and he jumped on it and asked if I’d ever thought about auditioning,” she said. “I’ve only done paid work for four years, so I think it’s a big shift mentally volunteering my time and serving the community, and it actually excited me more when I thought about it that way.”

Katelyn Walsh performing in a production by the Premiere Playhouse in Sioux Falls SD

What excited her most “was being around such a diverse group of people,” she continued. “You might think NYU and diversity, but I think we get stuck in a bubble. A lot of us are college age or right out of college, very privileged, and this was different. A lot of times in small-town theater companies there’s politics behind the scenes, and I didn’t know what to expect. But everyone was so nice, beyond anything I could have imagined.”

Katelyn Walsh performing in a production by the Premiere Playhouse in Sioux Falls SD

She now has a second job and is trying to figure out what her full-time work future looks like. She has thought about teaching and potentially seeking another degree.

“The opportunities I got to perform with kids in “Cinderella” made me realize that’s definitely something I could pursue in the future,” she said.

Katelyn Walsh performing in a production by the Premiere Playhouse in Sioux Falls SD

Walsh’s early experience in Sioux Falls is a good example of what other artists will find here, said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development.

“Sioux Falls is an incredibly welcoming and vibrant community for the arts and is becoming more so all the time thanks to talent like Katelyn relocating here,” she said.

“It’s easy to get involved in nonprofits like The Premiere Playhouse, but increasingly we are finding artists with paid performing opportunities, whether in a locally produced film, the local music scene or through special events. And if Katelyn does decide to look at more education, she is going to find so many opportunities in the area that will fit her work-life-school balance.”

Katelyn Walsh performing in a production

If time allows, you’ll likely see Walsh on stage in Sioux Falls in the future.

For now, though, “I love this town,” she said. “It’s got some great parts like downtown, there’s plenty to do and fun places to go, but it’s got the small-town feel where people are willing to chat at the grocery store. I bought a car for the first time, and being able to walk to my car at night and feel safe is definitely different.”

For someone who has lived on both sides of the country, landing in the middle seems to have its benefits.

“I was surprised how friendly my co-workers were and how it wasn’t too difficult to make friends,” she added. “Accepting that I was allowed to change my mind was huge. You think you’re on a path, and everyone expects you to follow through in a certain way, but it’s OK to change your mind and have your life take on a different form than you ever imagined.”

If you think your path could wind through Sioux Falls, we’d love to connect with you! Email deniseg@siouxfalls.com or visit siouxfalls.com to learn more about opportunities to grow your future here.