Dusk crept into a midtown Manhattan diner earlier this month as Jennifer Jiles presented a reporter with an impromptu performance of the opening act of her one-woman comedy, “Kicking & Screaming,” culled from the four years she spent as a Rockette.
During her show, being performed October 29 and throughout November at the Workshop Theater Company and Dillon’s in Manhattan, Jiles shares with her audiences the scoop about what really “goes on behind the kickline” at Radio City Music Hall, home to the 36 pairs of high-flying legs known for their Christmas “spectaculars.” Earlier runs of her show have garnered positive mentions in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and a bevy of other publications.
“They had me playing Mother Mary in the nativity scene,” said the proudly secular Jew. “Finally, they had a real authentic Jewish virgin!” she added with a laugh.
Jiles grew up in a secular Jewish home in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Driving down the West Side Highway with her mother, the young Jiles’s heart would start pumping when she saw the skyline. “And this is starting at age 4 or 5.” It had to be New York; she knew it.
After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the State University of New York at Purchase, Jiles moved downstate to New York City. She started out with acting gigs with the national tour of “The Odd Couple” and with Carl Reiner. In 1992 she auditioned for the Rockettes after seeing an ad in Backstage, and made the cut. Off-season, she hosted “Dynamets!” a baseball show for kids on the SportsChannel, which provided a respite from the grueling Radio City schedule of five shows per day.
“Being a Rockette was a dream, but it was a job,” Jiles said. “It was hard work.”
“After the show I’d go home, get on the subway, and nobody knew who I was, which is hilarious,” she said. “I’m so tired, and people are yacking up about the Christmas show, waving their programs,” she said. “And I wanted to scream: ‘That was me! You love me!’ Then they push me out of the way.”
“I went to Radio City, fulfilled my dream to be a Rockette, and then I found out this wasn’t really me,” she said. “And so I went to fulfill another dream. And so can everybody else. That’s sort of the underlying message in the show.”
For information about “Kicking & Screaming,” please visit www.jenniferjiles.com.