The Madcap Motel opens its doors to a new wave of visitors who are eager to resurrect the sweet joy of an artful experience after a hellish year and some days amidst a catastrophic pandemic. And what a way to inaugurate this new era of living… the Madcap Motel is an immediately enveloping dive into an Elsewhere where all things whimsy rave on, a welcoming reprieve to all who want to take the scenic route of the current and past realities. The 17,000 square foot venue is a beautifully designed portal hearkening back to the silhouettes of the 1960’s. As a visitor, the curiosities unravel with each step further into this eccentric place… not to mention the talented cast of characters who wield such enchanting expressions to create a dialogue premised on the lore of Madcap.
Every room in this motel is adorned with exquisite and interactive elements, convincing of an existence within a macrocosm drenched in surrealism. The level of immersion manifested at the Madcap Motel is remarkable and quite rare. Around every corner is a spectacle and every visitor becomes an inquiring mind of this quixotic dimension known as Elsewhere. Madcap Motel is a radiating force of wonder, a marvelously expressive aesthetic, that we had the absolute pleasure of learning more about by interviewing Paige Solomon, founder of Madcap Motel, just days before its grand opening on April 30th, 2021.
JF: So how did you go about constructing the idea of Madcap Motel and designing the aesthetic? What came first? The idea and then the style?
PS: Dream Machine, which was our first venue in New York, was at the time when selfie places were really on the rise and it was great. It did really well! It was a good representation of what that time was, but I had a hunch that video was going to become more than just still photography. And so, I just really wanted to make something that felt like more, or allowed for more storytelling and allowed people to interpret it differently. Dream Machine was very much stand-in-front-of-this-giant-cloud and take this exact photo and everyone had the same picture. But I really wanted people to have different experiences. So that was kind of part of the reason for going towards immersive theater, but I didn’t want to make it too immersive for people that aren’t comfortable with it. Or who don’t really know if they even like it, if they have never done it. I wanted it to be like a dip-your-toes-in. So that was kind of how we got to immersive theater. The way we got to Madcap was through our most popular room in Dream Machine which was this laundromat, which is silly because there’s like a million laundromats in New York. So the laundromat was the most popular and it was retro in theme. We had cotton candy out of the washing machine and a wall of dryers. And then behind the dryer, you could go into a galaxy room. When we came out here to LA, I knew I wanted to do something retro. And I was like, “what has a lot of doors?” So that’s a motel! And how would you describe a weird motel? So I literally went to the dictionary and looked up words like “weird,” “wacky,” “zany.” And then I found Madcap and I came to the name “Madcap Motel.” And so we started building it out. Looking at the trends and the way people are capturing things, they were moving away from the pink wall aesthetic and more towards nostalgic vibes. So I thought, let’s make this a weird wonderland set in the 1960s. There’s a weird time warp. And then yeah, we just all sat around and started having brainstorm sessions.
JF: What were the implications of COVID-19 delaying the opening of Madcap Motel and the period of time that has passed since? What thoughts and feelings do you have on the concept of opening in this current context now?
PS: Yeah, so financially, not good. Everything was based on ticket sales and we hadn’t had ticket sales for a year, so financially speaking, not the best. But yeah, we just kind of waited. And now we’re opening and I think it put a lot of things into perspective. Like last time when we were opening, the team was really caught in the details of everything and everything needed to be perfect. And you know, if one vine was out of place, that was like the end of the world, specifically for me! I’m definitely a little bit of a control freak, haha! But when the whole world is literally dying, it just puts things in perspective. You’re thinking like, “we’re all healthy, the venues still exist and hopefully we get to open it.” I am so not active on social media, but today I posted, and I really thought I was never going to say these words that Madcap Motel is open… and that people are going to come and talk about it, share it. Like I thought no one would ever see this. So I think it’s better this time around because everyone has been so cooped up for so long that before it was like, “yeah, whatever. It’s another Friday night, I bought a ticket to this day, whatever.” But now people are buying tickets and they’re saying, “this is the first thing that I’m doing in a shared space.” It’s almost more exciting in a way. And then, you know, from a logistics perspective, we were always at a low capacity. We’re allowed to have 400 people in this building. We’re only ever selling a hundred tickets because we wanted to create a great experience. So we didn’t want people to feel like they were sardines in here. So the restrictions haven’t really changed anything. We have practically no ceiling, so it feels airy and flowy. Then we’ve always had the timed ticketing. So we control everything. I appreciate this place a lot more. And I feel like the team is more excited now than ever before to share it. And for people to see it! And like, for me, there’s only been a handful of people today, but everyone has said like, “it’s more than I expected! I had no idea that I’ve driven by this place a bunch of times. I had no idea what was in here!” It just means a lot more now because we’ve had the time, the space to think about it.
JF: There’s a theme of nostalgia here, an essence that is so powerful. Can you explain the significance of tapping into a retro theme while putting an eccentric twist on it?
PS: I didn’t want this place to be something that just millennials or Gen Z got into but I wanted it to be a place that if you brought your parents or your grandparents to, they would be like, “oh my God, I had that carpet in my room growing up!” There’s something special about that. Everything’s shared on social media and I wanted to put something on there that felt like more, that didn’t feel like everything else that’s out there. I just wanted to feel weird. I wanted it to feel like the Twilight Zone, not scary, but a little Twilight Zone-y, a little lost, a little Beetlejuice, like all the things I loved growing up. And the things I love growing up still are not really the new things, it’s always been the old things. I think there’s something that feels more authentic when you’re in a place that feels warm and worn. I felt like I wanted to be transported to a time and place that was a better time and place than the world we live in.
JF: This place is such an experience and an experience is an incredible form of art. So what do you hope to impart upon visitors as they receive the different expressions in each room and what do you want them to leave here feeling?
PS: So I say this pretty often, but it’s very true! And this is how I feel. I feel like life is Groundhog’s Day and every day becomes the same day. And so I just want to put people in a place where they’re really not sure what is behind each motel door. And how many times do you open a door and are surprised by what’s behind it? Practically never, right? So I just want people to have fun, to get out of their heads, to have an escape from reality because Lord knows we all need it after this past year. It’s not the highest piece of art. It’s not the highest end piece of theater. We’re not trying to be. We’re just trying to be fun and a place where you can go with your friends that doesn’t feel like another place you can go to in LA. Just get lost and turn your brain off for a little bit!
Madcap Motel is open to the public and located in the Downtown Arts District of Los Angeles, California.