By Maya Varma
When JB Horsley was little, he witnessed the lights-flashing, roller-skating madness that is Starlight Express, a lively and colorful rock musical. Inspiration immediately hit him, and he followed this inspiration to his first official show (he prefers not to count a “Greek mythical musical thing” from third grade as his first), in which he played one of the monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. He originally wanted the role so he could fly from the rafters with strings attached to his back. However, considering he was in elementary school, this didn’t happen. But the disappointment was obviously temporary, as Horsley is now embarking on his 21st show at Menlo. But what is it about theater that makes this senior tick?
“I love the storytelling best,” Horsley explained. “I love telling and hearing stories, the characters and plots, all the different symbolism behind it. I love finding a new and interesting way to tell a story.” Horsley has found ways to tell these stories through many different mediums, from plays to musicals to dance concerts, and even poetry. Not only has Horsley participated in two dance concerts on top of his 18 plays so far, but he has also participated in poetry slams and student directed shows. “Theater is the truest way of expressing life through stories. And stories are what make life worth living.”
In his sophomore year, Horsley hit the stage as Patsy in Spamalot alongside alumni Ryan Bowman. “Patsy was my favorite role to play. I’m not sure if it was the character or the connection I was able to make with Ryan’s character, who was King Arthur.”
But for Horsley, the character he plays is merely a cog in the machine. “To me it’s never about the character, it’s always about the cast, group, and story that’s being told,” Horsley explains. The spotlight seems to be the least of Horsley’s motivations to pursue theater—to him, the production as a whole is what deserves the most attention. “It’s just inspiring when you get to that point when every single person is working as hard as they can to make this beautiful entity that is a finished production.”
As a senior, Fiddler on The Roof is Horsley’s last production at Menlo. Coming from a family of Jewish descent, Fiddler tells a story that hits home for Horsley. “It’s telling my family’s story. My mother even shares a name with one of the sisters. I have a huge familial and personal connection to the show.” And not only has Horsley bonded with the show, but with the cast as well. “We’re like a little family. Some of my closest friends have been in the theater program.”
But this isn’t the final stop for Horsley in his theater career. While choosing not to pursue theater as a major in college, he is hoping to minor in it and continue to perform in extra curricular activities. “I think acting is important in anything you do,” Horsley says. But his modesty hasn’t been lost quite yet—when asking whether he hopes to pursue a major in college, he stresses the fact that while he’s good on the high school stage, he’s nothing compared to those on Broadway.
“I would like to thank everyone who has helped and inspired me along the way,” Horsley remarks. “Mr. Mugglebee, Ms. Orr, Mr. Minning, Jan, Courtney, Tripp, the cast, the crew, and the audience, you have all helped me grow into the actor and person I am today. Thank you for helping make my story incredible.”