How the Barcroft Players Made its Periaktoi

When the Barcroft Players presented The King's Equal, the premiere performance of a child's play based on a book by Katherine Patterson, our talented set designer, Maggie Modig, designed a set around two "peri's." In the theater world a peri is a periaktoi, a three-sided column of scenery with different scenes on each side that can be turned to change the scene. The concept came originally from Greek theater.

Here is what our peris look like when painted for The King's Equal. The set also had a puppet stage in the center, disguised as a mountain. 

We got some really good help from the High School Tech Production site, but decided that we needed to adapt some elements to our own needs. For our tiny theater with minimal storage room we needed to be able to open up the peris and use them as flats. And we wanted them to turn easily so that the actors could change scenes as they exited just by flipping the peris around.

Our basic concept was to construct three flats, hinge two of the joints, and leave one joint to be closed with hooks. The assembly can sit flat on the floor, but we made the base of 1" plywood, cut in a triangle to fit within the three assembled flats, and put castors on the bottom to make it easy to move. The lower bracing inside the flats is raised by about two inches so that when the base is inserted the plywood flat comes down almost to the floor and hides both the base and the castors. The flats are made of quarter inch plywood, braced with 1x2 inch pine boards. (1x3 inch would be stiffer, but we didn't have any available and we built them in a day.) They were assembled with 3/4" drywall screws using a power driver.

Here is the interior. 

We have fitted the peris with black curtains on the backs of the panels so we can open them up for a plain stage backdrop. The curtains have to dismount to allow the peris to be hooked together in triangular form when used as scenery. When unhooked and curtained the peris now function as draped flats. You could probably achieve the same effect by draping curtains over the fronts, actually, but they would then bow out instead of in. You could also just paint the back of the peri in flat black, but that is considerably less elegant than the drapes. We use the flats configuration for concerts, dramatic readings done without elaborate sets and other events where plain drapes are needed.

 The stage set up with the drapes in place.

The stage set up with the drapes in place.

 The drapes.

The drapes.

 Hanging the drapes.

Hanging the drapes.

 Hangers turn sideways to permit folding the peris.

Hangers turn sideways to permit folding the peris.

 The hangers were bent by hand from heavy wire.

The hangers were bent by hand from heavy wire.

 Stored.

Stored.

The bottom line: our neighborhood theater troop handled the construction and decorating of these wonderful stage assets with very little stress, a willing but unskilled carpenter and some genuine talent provided by Maggie Modig. They are really useful for a small stage.

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