Athlete, Theater Lover Radiates Warm Personality
Issue   |   Fri, 05/24/2013 - 13:47

Reilly Horan grew up under the mantra “no gesture is ever too grand” and has manifested this theme in all aspects of her life ever since. The warmth of her kindness, along with her humorous and outgoing personality, has made her a well-known and well-liked individual on campus. Students and faculty both applaud her for her ability to bring people together, which is evident through her involvement with the Theater and Dance Department, the English Department, the softball team and the Random Acts of Kindness club.

Her First Theater Troupe
Horan grew up in Darien, Conn. with her mother, father and three siblings. She, along with her older sister, Mackenzie (23), and younger brothers, Grayson (19) and Camden (16), were constantly performing as children, which sparked her interest in theater. One of her favorite playtime memories was building forts and huts with her brothers so that they could train for the army. Her parents always told her that “you should not be ashamed to express yourself or your love in weird ways.” For example, when her sister was going to study abroad, their entire family went to the airport and blasted Chris Brown’s “Forever” to wish her a farewell. These types of moments are what helped shape Horan’s interest in performing as her family was constantly making its own fun.

Horan attended Holmes Elementary School in Darien; she describes herself as a tomboy during her years there and she has fond memories of wearing an oxford shirt and tie on picture day. Horan continued to incorporate theatrical antics into her time at school. One day she decided to divide the class into two countries, Japan and “Beefy Land,” and had the two groups wage war on each other. Her imagination thrived during recess, as she created her own little world with two of her friends. Together, they ran a “business” where they would have people complete — and pay for — silly tasks such as rides down the slides. Horan’s fun-loving and performing nature carried over into the classroom, as she loved all the school projects where she got to act as other people. She preferred creative projects to worksheets and loved to build stuff with her hands.

Her hands-on nature led her to become involved in the tech work of plays at her middle school, Middlesex Middle School. Horan loved being behind the scenes, and, even though she never acted in a play during those years, she still was able to perform in the classroom. She remembers projects where she had to impersonate Oprah Winfrey or a Greek god.

Horan’s imagination became limited to the classroom as middle school cut out recess, which was hard for her since she felt she was most herself when she played outside. However, middle school was when Horan learned that she liked to write. With the influence of an English teacher, Ms. Scott, she began to discover her interest in creative writing; Ms. Scott was the first teacher who helped change the way Horan learned and thought.

Stepping into Her Role
In middle school, Horan remembers being “perpetually uncomfortable” with herself and with her weird haircut, resembling that of the girl from the Wendy’s logo — red hair and all. She had few close friends and had trouble in finding her place amongst her fellow students. Once she reached high school, though, she started to find kids that not only acted but also thought similarly to her. Horan found a core group of friends her sophomore year, which was a great source of support.

Horan loved the theater department at her high school because of its welcoming nature; it promoted ideas of acceptance and taught not to be judgmental. Throughout her high school career, she learned how to build sets with help from Lee Strecker, a technology education teacher. Her senior year, she was the president of the theater department and produced Les Misérables, which Horan found special because “Les Mis” is her favorite musical.

Horan became similarly infatuated with the theater department at Amherst. Performing had always been a part of her life, and the courses Action and Character, Language of Movement and Vocal Freedom all increased her desire to perform further. While she majored in Theater and Dance, Professor Ronald Bashford describes her as an “all-around major:” she’s done acting, writing and design work, including both scenic and lighting design.

For her senior thesis, Horan wrote and performed in a play called “YES,” which was inspired by This is Water by David Foster Wallace. It centered on the theme of “how you deal with the monotony and mundanity of adult life.” As Professor Bashford put it, the play is an “affirmation of living in the moment.” Horan felt that her thesis tied back into her childhood, as both deal with the importance of “expressing your weirder impulses.” Horan ended her production with a gospel choir because she loves how they are full of life and believes that they embody theatricality.

After spending a lot of one-on-one time working on her thesis, Professor Bashford will certainly miss Horan’s presence.

“She really cares about other people, and you feel that instantly,” Professor Bashford said. “She has nothing to hide.”

Covering all the Bases
Horan’s interests were not limited to theater. Coming from an athletic family, she started with tee-ball and little league at a young age and played softball throughout middle school and high school. Her varsity team at Darien High School was competitive in the Connecticut State Tournament her senior year, and her success continued throughout college even with a new team.

At Amherst, Horan has earned many softball accolades. She holds the program’s record for hits and RBIs, and she was also the team’s MVP for the spring 2013 season (when she was also the team captain). She garnered All-NESCAC academic honors for three consecutive years as well as earning a spot on the All-NESCAC second team. She was also named to the Capital One All-District First Team, for which student-athletes must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.30 in addition to significant athletic credentials. Horan finished her softball career with 168 hits, seven home runs and 105 RBIs; she also hit .377 in her final season.

Besides the sport itself, Horan has enjoyed the fact that every team she has played on has been an “eclectic bunch of girls.” As she puts it, in softball, there are so many different types of people who can be successful at the sport, which makes the team a very diverse group. She loves spending time with her teammates, and they all have formed solid relationships with each other.

“[Reilly is] the type that can lighten the mood without overstepping her boundaries. She always brings the right attitude to the field regardless of how good or bad her own day has been,” said Coach Whitney Mollica Goldstein.
While Horan loves competing, she also takes care of teammates and can have fun with them as well.

“She has the drive to really hold her teammates accountable and make those around her better. She always has good intentions, and her teammates respect her,” Coach Mollica Goldstein said. “Reilly consistently showed selfless acts, which is huge to be an effective leader.”

Horan’s selfless nature and leadership abilities carried over into her position as an athletic liaison for the Center of Community Engagement. She describes this experience as a “fruitful experiment,” as she was able to get sports teams to participate in community engagement projects.

Academically Speaking
Horan has viewed her father as her lifelong coach, but she also sees both of her parents as lifelong learners. Her father, Peter, is a mortgage broker and is currently in school to become a math teacher, and her mother, Beth, is an emergency room nurse and is also in school furthering her degree. Her parents have raised her to “do what you love and do it with every fiber of your being.” Horan has never felt pressure to follow a certain track, and she has always had open, honest lines of communication with her parents.

Horan was drawn to Amherst principally because of the open curriculum and, since she planned to pursue both softball and theater, she knew that Div. III and NESCAC schools would be a great fit. She also liked the small size of the school because it would allow her to form close relationships with select professors.

One of those professors at Amherst was English Professor Alicia Christoff, whom Horan sees as her main mentor. As an English and Theater and Dance double major, Reilly found herself especially intrigued by the psychoanalytic and Freudian aspects of literature. Horan took Psychoanalysis and Literature, a Special Topics class, and Reading Post-Freudian Psychoanalysis — all with Professor Christoff — who describes Horan as “an earnest, hardworking and tenacious student.” When she ran into difficult ideas, Horan always stuck with it.

“She was not afraid to articulate what she understood in class, which was really great because it would help other people understand it too. She wasn’t afraid to be wrong,” Professor Christoff remarked. “She would just put her ideas out there.”
What the Future Holds

Next year, Horan will be working as a graduate assistant in the Theater and Dance department. She will be spending a lot of time in the carpentry shop to build the scenery and design work for next year’s students’ theses. She hopes to build her portfolio during this year so that she can make meaningful theater later in life, whether it is through writing, performing or designing.

Her lifelong dream is to write a musical because she believes that musicals “model how life should be lived.” One of the items on her bucket list is to see as many Broadway shows as she can. She also hopes to go to a filming of “Saturday Night Live,” meet John Krasinski (since she is a lifelong fan of “The Office”) and become best friends with Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig.

Regardless of what she ends up pursuing, almost everybody who’s gotten to know her trusts her outgoing and hardworking personality will lead her to success.

“Whatever she does, she’s going to be bringing people together,” Professor Bashford said. “I think that’s her great gift.”