Right before the finale of his latest musical, The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Martha Stewart, New York-based performer Ryan Raftery — sporting a pair of sensible cotton khakis, a chambray button-down and a bright yellow sweater draped carefully over the back — does what this writer always considered to be impossible: He grandly folds a fitted sheet before the audience.
Needless to say, the crowd goes wild.
“It took me four months to learn how to do it,” Raftery tells us during a recent sit-down in Midtown Manhattan. He’s currently in between runs of his show, which just finished a sold-out stint at Joe’s Pub in New York and will travel to the West Coast for three performances at Rockwell Table and Stage in Los Angeles before a New York return. “I knew I had to exact some type of Martha prowess onstage, and that jumped out immediately as a possibility.”
Raftery soon found out why aspiring perfectionist homemakers and Martha acolytes alike list folding a fitted sheet at the top of of their “Wish I Could Learn How To” lists.
“I gave up at least 15 times,” he says. “I told my director that we should explore some sort of theater magic where we throw on a strobe light and quickly replace the messy fitted sheet with a pre-folded one.”
Raftery eventually nailed it, though, and his audiences have been treated to the real thing each night, to their delight.
“I quickly realized that if I was going to play Martha Stewart, I needed to honor her and learn how to fold the fucking thing,” Raftery says. “To make things even harder, it needed to happen within a very strict musical time frame. It needs to be completed in 42 seconds flat.”
Raftery’s Martha Stewart stage show, a highly choreographed production in which he takes us through her life story using song parodies, is the third and final part of his “Titans of Media” trilogy. The prior two installments saw Raftery portray Vogue editrix Anna Wintour and Bravo’s Real Housewives wrangler Andy Cohen.
The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Martha Stewart premiered this summer to packed crowds. Stewart herself has yet to attend one of Raftery’s performances, though she has sent not one but two of her assistants — and her gardener.
The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Martha Stewart plays Los Angeles Nov. 5-7 at Rockwell Table and Stage (purchase tickets here), and returns to Joe’s Pub on Nov. 20, Jan. 23, Feb. 11–12 (tickets here).
All photos by Elyssa Goodman