Starting tomorrow, Los Feliz's Rockwell Table & Stage will play home to Ryan Raftery Is the Most Powerful Woman in Fashion, a "fierce jukebox biomusical" that first caught our eye last month. Performance artist Ryan Raftery will take the stage to play the one and only Anna Wintour, hilariously humanizing the seemingly untouchable American Vogue editor-in-chief.
Here, Raftery gives us the rundown on his sold-out show (you can still buy tickets for Sunday here!), what Anna really thinks of it, and which cultural icon he's set to play next.
What inspired you to create this act?
I had done a solo show every year since 2009. All of my shows were autobiographical in nature and by 2014, I had no more personal life experience to draw from. So, instead of sitting around and waiting to be kidnapped, I decided to use someone else's life as inspiration. I was working in the corporate offices of a major fashion brand and we had direct contact with Anna's office. I was amazed by how many times I heard her name. "Anna won't like that", "Anna won't come but we still have to invite her"—I was fascinated by the amount of power she seemed to have. I knew that I had to do a show about her but didn't really know how to do it until the Kimye cover happened this past April. The social media backlash against her was so harsh and I imagined S.I. Newhouse calling her into his office and firing her. I knew that was going to be the framing device of the show.
Have you ever met her?
One day, I was standing on a street corner in midtown Manhattan, waiting for the light to change and I looked to my left and there she stood. The bob. The sunglasses. The Starbucks cup in her hand. I instinctively said "Good Morning, Anna." She turned and looked at me, quickly processed that I was not known to her and she walked away.
How has the show response been?
The response had been overwhelming! I've never done a show before that has received this level of attention. All of my shows follow the same format, but I understand completely that there is heightened interest here due to the fact that I am playing a very, very famous person. When Anna's daughter came to the opening night performance and told me that her mother told her about the show, I knew I had tapped into something. The biggest compliment I have gotten from people,who come to see the show is, 'I didn't think I could care about Anna Wintour but you made me." The skeleton of my script is all true but I have fleshed it out with a huge amount of creative license and conjecture. My Anna suffers from chronic constipation due to the stress level of her job and is massively obsessed with Beyoncé.
How did you prepare for your role as Anna Wintour?
I watched every interview I could find on YouTube. I read Jerry Oppenheim's unauthorized bio Front Row. The most important bit of research was watching The September Issue documentary. The director was able to capture aspects of Anna's character never before seen. Her relationship with her daughter [Bee Shaffer] in that film showed a warmer side of Anna that I found very touching. There is a shot of Anna where she is simply listening to Bee talk and there is such love in her eyes. Anna also talk about how her siblings (all three of whom have "serious" jobs) think that the fashion world is silly and are amused by what she does. I use all of this in my show and feel that it greatly humanizes the Nuclear Wintour stereotype.
What do you find most fascinating about Anna?
Her completely and utterly unchecked power. No one reaches any supreme heights in the world of fashion without her giving the green light.
What would you say to her if you ever met her?
"How about a hug?"
What other cultural icon would you love to make a play about?
I'm fascinated by the obsession with reality television in the world. My next show is going to be a musical version of A Christmas Carol where I will play Andy Cohen of Bravo's Watch What Happens: Live.
What's the fashion like in your show?
I've heard that Anna has seen images of me dressed as her and she said that I "didn't get the fashion right." Well, if she knew exactly where these clothes came from, she'd never stop throwing up. The good news is that the costume has been updated with a much more Chanelesque jacket, purchased for $39 from Burlington Coat Factory!
Buy tickets for Sunday night's show here before they sell out.
· OMG: An Anna Wintour Musical is Heading to LA Next Month [Racked]