Monday, June 7, 2010

The Helpless Doorknob

Edward Gorey's The Helpless Doorknob: A Shuffled Story was published in 1989 as a set of 20 laminated cards in a clear plastic box. The first edition of this card pack was issued as a signed, numbered, limited edition of 500 sets. The colophon page is an additional, illustrated, folded card. I am showing copy #317/500.

This is yet another interactive Gorey title, and proved to be very popular. The participant shuffles the cards (or throws them in the air) to create new stories. There was a second printing as well as a third edition of 500 copies. Only the first edition is signed and numbered on the colophon page.

About seven or eight years ago, Dramatis Personae presented Helpless Doorknobs as part of the Minneapolis Fringe Festival for five performances. Giving Edward Gorey credit as author in the program notes, the director states,"The original text by Edward Gorey came from a collection of cards with simple events and illustrations...Mr. Gorey later transformed it into a one-page dramatic text including twenty scenarios, but without any specific structure, encouraging each production to develop its own vision."

I am still not sure where this theater company (this is the only production I am aware of for them) acquired access to the "one page" manuscript. The theater piece was produced after Mr. Gorey's death and they do not appear to have worked with the estate. After seeing the production, I mentioned it to Andreas Brown and he was unaware of the performance of this play.

I have found Helpless Doorknobs 1 and Helpless Doorknobs 2 listed in the program from Chinese Gossip, which was performed in 1994 at Theater on the Bay by Mr. Gorey.


pursuit agent said...

I have a fourth edition that is signed, one of the last things I was able to pick up at Gotham Book Mart before its demise...

Anonymous said...

I've googled here looking for more details after finding Helpless Doorknobs as a one page script in the book Plays in One Act (ed Daniel Halpern ISBN 0-88001-490-3). As a preface to the script it says:

For an eclectic entertainment, pick - using chance or deliberation or both - twenty or so (of the 2,432,902,069,736,640,000 possible) versions of the text to put on the stage. Six actors are needed; more could be used. Note that ADOLPHUS is a large black dog.

After that the twenty lines are reproduced, with no further instruction. No record of performances, or that this was intended for anywhere other than the stage.

Anonymous said...

I saw a performance at a small theater in New Orleans called The Mudlark Public Theatre.