Playing Jackie Kennedy in The Tragedy of JFK
I don't know how to explain it, but when I heard about this new play about JFK told in the words of William Shakespeare, it awakened a dream in me that was hiding in the depths of my heart. Somewhere deep in my subconscious, I just knew that it was perfect for me and that I always did want to play Jackie Kennedy.
I left nothing to chance and lived by my personal motto of "no fate but what we make." I cried with joy when I got a callback, and expected to do the same if I was offered the role. The wait was excruciating. As a devout atheist, I prayed to no one, but just kept whispering my motto to myself whenever I felt nervous. At this point, it was out of my hands. The night after the callback, I saw a shooting star and instantly thought of the play, hoping it was a sign even though I don't believe in signs. I didn't make a wish (for fear of the monkey's paw!), but again I whispered my motto under my breath.
Finally, a couple of days later, I got the email.
Just like my acceptance from RADA a year earlier, I read and re-read the message a dozen times or more. I wasn't sure whether I was reading everything correctly or not. Had someone typed something wrong? No, they didn't; this is really happening!
I immediately started reading Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story by Barbara Leaming, a biography I had come across in my research over the past few weeks. I've been busy pinning information and images on Pinterest, watching videos and listening to old Jackie interviews on YouTube. I watched The Day Kennedy Died on Netflix, rented Camelot, and finally sat down to watch Oliver Stone's JFK. At this point, I'm listening to Caroline Kennedy's Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, an audio book of the Schlesinger interviews from early 1964, and reading Mrs. Kennedy and Me, an intimate memoir written by Jackie's Secret Service agent Clint Hill, who ran up to the limousine after the shots rang out, climbed on the car and protected Jackie with his body as they drove away in the havoc and terror of that fateful day. I think my favorite find in all this research so far, however, is this delightful phone conversation with President Lyndon B. Johnson on December 2nd, 1963.
I've always had a soft spot for Jackie Kennedy. When I left for my high school prom, wearing big round sunglasses and a scarf to protect my hair from the wind in my dad's rented Sebring convertible, my mother called out, "you look just like Jackie O!" Previously, my mother had told me about her own experience on the day JFK died, and it always stuck with me. She had just started working as a secretary at a big investment firm in Montreal when it happened. Someone in her office heard the news on the radio and everybody stopped to listen. I had never experienced anything quite like it until I watched the twin towers fall on 9/11. I can still recall the stunned silence at McGill University that day when hundreds of students huddled around the television in the cafeteria basement of the Bronfman Building.
While Jackie and I grew up in different worlds and different times, we share so much in common. We were both born into Catholicism. We were both raised with the false idea that we were descended from royalty. We both hungered to get away from a cookie-cutter life. We both moved to Europe at the age of 19 and froze our asses off in bedrooms with no heating! We both learned multiple languages. We've both spent a lot of time around dignitaries. And we both worked as secretaries, and had short-lived careers as journalists before getting married (her for the Washington Times-Herald, and I for The Guardian).
Aside from the sheer joy of getting to play Jackie Kennedy in The Tragedy of JFK, I'm excited about this production for so many other reasons. I get to work with an incredible group of people, a director I admire, for a theatre company that I have a lot of respect for... and I get to do my favorite thing in the whole world: Shakespeare!
Previews begin on September 24th, and tickets are available here. Don't you dare miss it!