From softball field to stage

Submitted photo

Charleroi senior soccer and softball star Morgan Riley performs as “Tweedle Dum” in the musical Alice in Wonderland.

Even though Charleroi senior Morgan Riley has been an All-WPIAL selection as a soccer defender and a two-time section all-star in softball, there is more to her game than her honors and stats.

“Morgan is our shortstop and best hitter,” noted Cougars softball coach Trey Tilghman.

As a junior last year, the right-handed hitting Riley batted .522 with a pair of home runs. Riley, who bats third in the lineup, is off to an even hotter start this season in her fourth season starting for Charleroi. With 21 hits in 38 at bats for a .552 average, she has powered six doubles, one triple, with two home runs and 17 runs batted in (as of May 1) for the Lady Cougars, 4-7 overall, 2-7 in Section 2-AA.

“She is a great kid with a positive attitude and she is our team leader,” Tilghman continued. “She is primarily a contact hitter and hits the ball hard, with some power. She is consistent, belting out 2-3-4 hits a game, every game. Defensively, she is great at short.”

But there’s another side of Riley’s game that sets her apart: “If we don’t win, she wears it pretty bad,” he added. “She’s a competitor and takes losses hard.”

So when Riley landed the major role of Tweedle Dum in Charleroi Area’s production of Alice@Wonderland March 4-5-6, some in the audience were chuckling at Riley’s on-stage talents.

After appearing as a sophomore as a member of the lollipop guild in the Wizard of Oz, and as a waitress and member of the president’s cabinet in Annie last year, “As Tweedle Dum, this role brought out another side of me,” Riley said, chuckling at the memory. “In acting in this role I was being crazy, funny, and many people had never seen me that way. I enjoyed the dancing and rapping.”

It was due to her mother’s encouragement that Riley first stepped on stage in the Wizard of Oz. “Being on stage that first time pushed me into wanting to become more involved with acting,” Riley said, “and I found this was something that definitely appealed to me.”

Melissa Vitali, kindergarten teacher in the Charleroi Elementary Center and director of musical, noted that Riley has played a variety of parts in her tenure on Charleroi’s stage, including this year where she was part of the duo that played Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

“Morgan’s enthusiasm for everything that she does is very impressive,” Vitali said. “She obviously enjoys whatever she is doing and directs that talent to draw in the audience. As an actor she has the ability to become the character and incorporate her comic timing. She has a natural sense of how to deliver a line to get the biggest laugh. In this and her earlier roles she demonstrated a knack to put aside any reservations and just have fun with the part.”

Vitali added that, for her role as Tweedle Dum, it was necessary for Riley to work well with Tweedle Dee and rap and dance in addition to making the audience laugh.

“Morgan threw herself into the role and just had fun with it,” Vitali recalls. “So many young people are concerned with how they will be perceived as they play an off-the-wall character, but Morgan is such a confident young woman that she can just go on stage and have fun and bring in the audience.”

As a singer, Vitali pointed to Riley’s “wonderful work ethic” as one of the keys to her success, that she often went to the vocal director to review her part prior to stepping on stage. That work ethic extended to Riley’s support for cast members, including those of elementary-school age.

“Morgan would go out of her way to speak to them and compliment them on their scenes,” Vitali said. “Our younger students look up to her because of this. As a teacher musical director, that attitude makes me proud of our students at Charleroi.”

Despite Riley’s soccer honors where, as a stopper she was still able to score nine goals this past season, she plans to play only softball in college, with the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, her collegiate destination. Interested in Homeland Security, Riley will major in Criminal Justice.

At Charleroi, Riley has been a member of the Executive Committee, History and Spanish clubs, coordinator of Relay-for-Life, and Peer Jury.

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