In continuing my posts on the recently closed Theatre Simpson production of Lysistrata Jones, I wanted to share a simple solution to what might have been a daunting challenge. I shared our solution for creating a large neon sign element to shift the location of the action of the play from the Athens University campus to a local brothel known in the play as the “Eros Motor Lodge.” The action of the play shifts to this local several times. The first time, the girls visit the brothel seeking advice on how to get their boyfriends hot and bothered as a step in their effort to incentivize the boys to win a basketball game. This strategy backfires when some of the boys, angry at the girls for attempting to manipulate them in this manner, instead of winning a basketball game to gain their (now very hot) girlfriend’s favors, dump them instead. In order to satiate their now inflamed desires, some of the boys visit the local whore-house and are introduced to three hookers from the stable of girls at the brothel. One of the boys flees with the discovery that he cares too much for his girlfriend, while a second becomes discouraged when he senses that his hooker is not really interested in him. The third goes off into a hotel room with his new companion.
This second appearance of the Eros Motor Lodge, then, requires (or at least benefits from) having at least one door. The other Eros Motor Lodge scenes don’t benefit from having doors; In fact, no other scene in the play requires doors. This presents the challenge that these doors probably wouldn’t be permanent fixtures of the stage and would need to shift in and out for just the one scene.
When I designed the scene, I conceived of three doors under the band platform that could be used to suggest the doors of the hotel. The research image of the Mardi Gras motel was my inspiration for the repetition of the rectangular shape and for color.
With this in mind, I constructed the band platform the exact height of a standard door (6′-9″) so that stock sized doors could fit and swing underneath. My vision was for simple frameless doors. Since standard doors hang and swing from a door frame and have large butt hinges along one edge. Another challenge was that the shift into and out of this scene needed to be fluid and quick. This meant that we had to envision doors that hinged in a non-standard manner and that could be installed easily and that would not embarrass us by malfunctioning catastrophically.
The solution came from the observation of how the hinge on bi-fold doors (such as are used for closets in some modern domestic construction) is constructed. The hinge on such a door consists of a pin set in holes on the top and bottom of the door and fractions of inches from the “hinged” edge. These pins fit into sockets or brackets in the floor and in the top edge track. The door swings from these pins. With this as inspiration,
I constructed pins of short lengths of 1/4″ pipes. I welded these to short lengths of steel strap with pre-drilled and countersunk holes in them to permit attaching them to the top and bottom edges of the door(s).
The lower pin was just long enough to rest in a 1/4″ masonite ”socket” screwed to the floor and to lift the door up to permit it to swing. The top pin was long enough to engage a socket created of scrap perforated steel angle attached to the overhead structure in such a way as to be invisible to the audience. In performance the cast members carried
the doors in at a slight angle, inserted the top pin in the bracket, lifted the door upright, sliding the top pin securely into the bracket and dropped the doorso that the bottom pin rested securely in the socket. With practice, the procedure was smooth and appeared effortless. The doors functioned flawlessly.
Aside from painting the doors in vivid chromatic jewel tones to reflect the research, we added dummy handles to the front and room numbers (65, 67 and, of course, 69)
Meanwhile, that’s enough for now! Have fun! But be safe!