I tried quite hard to borrow a phone booth for the skit I was organising from Telstra, the Australian national telephone company, but they didn't have any they could lend me. So I racked my brains as to how I could make one, and then it dawned on me: Use a 19" computer rack!
Step 1: Get Yourself a Rack and a Replica Pay Phone
If you can't find somewhere that stocks them, try here. I don't know if that place is any good, it was just the first place I found with Google.
You will also need to get yourself a full-height 19" rack with a clear front door (most important), and solid sides (moderately important), and a solid rear panel or door (less important). The sides and back are most important if you want to be able to put the rack somewhere as a stand-alone phone booth, like I did as a prop on stage.
Full height racks are about A$4000 to buy new with the door and all sides. But you can usually get them in good condition for a few hundred dollars or less at auction. You could even look on
ebay. Remember that they are really big, and really heavy (mine is about 120KG), so think ahead about delivery! You can often get racks cheap from government and business auctions, or if you know geeks who work in a big company. If you are in the right place at the right time, you can often get people to give you a rack for free if you promise to take it away for them (that's how I got mine - thanks Alasdair :)
Step 2: Gut the Rack
The main reason for removing all the innards, is that the normal 19" (~475mm) vertical rails make for a fairly squeezy space. But once you remove them, you actually have more like 24" (600mm) of space, which is must more reasonable.
If you plan to drop through the floor via a theatrical trap-door, then don't forget to remove any floor panels in the rack.
Alternatively, you might decide that it would be fun to have your production rack double as a telephone booth, like mine does now. Whatever floats your boat; it's your phone booth.
Step 3: Strap the Phone In.
Step 4: Label the Phone Booth
It is funny how much people rely on labels to assign function. Once the rack was labeled "TELEPHONE" everyone immediately started asking where I got a phone booth from. It helps that there are a zillion models of phone booth around the world, and that 19" racks are mostly phone-booth shaped.
Step 5: Cover the Lower Half of the Door (if Required)
You will want to cover the bottom 1 metre or so, to ensure that you have space behind the door to duck behind.
With a little practice the effect is perfect, and looks great on stage. For all that we had a cone of silence and a working shoe phone, it was the disappearing in the phone booth that drew the loudest applause from our audience.