All the pitch is a stage, and Riley McCartney is merely a player.
While the Grade 11 prop has been helping her Gleneagle Talons girls rugby team to a berth in the AAA provincial championships, she also performed several parts in the school’s spring musical, West Side Story, that just finished its run last Friday.
McCartney’s disparate roles required a careful balancing act of time and preparation, as well as support from her coach and director.
“A game trumps rehearsal, but a show trumps a game,” said McCartney, 16.
The scrum and stage may seem worlds apart, they also have much in common, she said.
“The team aspect is in both places.”
McCartney started playing rugby last year, another sport in her activity quiver that also includes soccer, volleyball and basketball — although a knee injury has forced her to curtail the latter. She said being the player the Talons call upon to crash the ball through packs of defenders “helps me let out my beast a little bit.”
And, McCartney discovered, the sport’s spring schedule benefitted her theatrical aspirations.
“When I’m feeling fit, I feel better on stage,” she said.
In Gleneagle’s production of West Side Story, McCartney played Glad Hand, a cheerful and bombastic social worker and one of only four adult roles in the play. She also had some smaller bit parts as a Jet girl and dancer.
McCartney said the confidence she’s gained performing on stage has helped her tackle the challenge of a new sport, and when the curtain opens, she’s able to draw on the strength and fortitude she’s gained playing rugby.
Both bring their own unique rushes, she said.
“In theatre, it’s a magical adrenaline, but in rugby it’s more ‘you need to get there.’”
With the curtain now down on West Side Story, McCartney will be able to devote her full attention to helping the Talons win a Fraser Valley championship, for which they’ll battle Yale secondary Thursday in Abbotsford after they defeated W.J. Mouat 14-0 in last week’s semi-final. Then it’s on to provincials in Shawnigan Lake from May 23 to 25, where Gleneagle will defend the AAA title it won last year.
But, McCartney said, the lessons learned from both endeavours will carry her well beyond the green grass of the pitch and the hardwood of the stage.
“Every person has a role,”she said. “Everyone is trying their best.”