Then she landed the role of a lifetime in the one-woman show Cirque Jacqueline, about the life and times of the wife of President John F. Kennedy, who was affectionately known during her lifetime to millions of Americans as Jackie O.
Reese, who bears a striking likeness to the late Kennedy-Onassis, said about ten years ago a director pointed out the resemblance. Reese said he suggested she write a play about the celebrity, and star in it herself. After some hesitation, that’s exactly what she did.
Reese spent seven months reading everything she could find about Kennedy-Onassis. She learned Kennedy-Onassis had a “quirky” sense of humor - she often hid from Secret Service agents in the bushes on the White House Lawn - as well as a sensitive, thoughtful side largely concealed from public view.
After reading more than 30 books about Kennedy-Onassis, Reese wrote the play and it premiered under director Charles Messina at the Bank Street Theater in Manhattan’s West Village in 2002. In the intervening years, Reese and Messina have produced the historically accurate play, which is 90 minutes long, in theaters throughout New York City and in Washington, D.C.
The play begins on the eve of Kennedy-Onassis’s death in 1994. It then travels back in time to her troubled childhood and moves forward through her years with J.F.K., the trauma of his assassination, her controversial marriage to Aristotle Onassis, and her final struggle with cancer.
Stepping into the role of a famous celebrity was difficult, said Reese, who has been acting since she was a child. “Any role has its own set of challenges,” said Reese. “With this role body movements and voice were particularly tough.”
After years of practice, however, Reese has mastered the challenge. And now, for the first time in more than a year, the play is being revived for two special performances at the Players Theater Loft in Greenwich Village, on December 18 and 19. Both performances start at 7:30 p.m. Reese said she can’t wait to don a wig, dark glasses, and take on the Jackie O. persona once more. “I love doing it,” said Reese, “it’s so exciting.”