World-renowned theatre lighting designer Itai Erdal blends his love of lighting and documentary filmmaking in How to Disappear Completely, making its Victoria debut at Intrepid Theatre’s Uno Fest
When Erdal, who had moved from Israel to Vancouver to attend film school, received a phone call telling him is mother was dying of lung cancer, he put his life on hold and returned to his homeland to spend as much time as he could with her, filming more than 30 hours of tape in her last months on Earth, intending to make a documentary film about her life.
Upon his return to Vancouver, Erdal put the footage away, as the grief was too great to set to work on the project.
It wasn’t until five years later when James Long — artistic director of Vancouver’s Theatre Replacement, and director of How to Disappear Completely — asked Erdal to be part of a workshop where the idea for the full show came to be. Multiple artists would create short 10-minute pieces based on Erdal’s footage, which Long had seen over the years as the two were good friends, and Erdal — who has been blessed with the gift of gab — got on stage to translate (the dialogue is in Hebrew) and provide context.
“I’m not an actor,” says Erdal. “I’m a good storyteller, I’m comfortable in public and I love talking … The notion of being in front of people wasn’t strange to me.”
What was intimidating was Erdal’s fear of offending his family. “They all came to the opening,” he says. “They were very touched. I was worried about offending my sister because she’s a very private person and her face is being projected on a huge screen, and we’re talking about the two hardest times in her life — my parents getting divorced and my mother dying— so I was worried about her reaction.”
While his sister wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being filmed in their time of great vulnerability, which led to fighting amongst them at the time, it was his mother who encouraged him to bring his camera.
“She said ‘This is my contribution to your future profession,’ it was her idea,” says Erdal. “She was directing the movie. She’d say ‘cut,’ or tell me how to get better angles. She wanted to help me in my career. If she had any idea how she really helped me … It’s remarkable how this footage changed my life.”
How to Disappear Completely will also be of great interest to budding lighting designers as it is also a prominent topic of the show.
“It’s the container that holds the whole thing,” says Erdal. “The show can be very sad at times and that’s hard to avoid, but it’s not just about my mom, it’s about every aspect of my life, my work, my friends, my dreams, my aspirations. I run the lights during the show … it’s a theatrical device. I keep pretending its a lighting lecture.” M
How to Disappear Completely
Intrepid Theatre’s Uno Fest
Metro Studio (1411 Quadra)
Thurs., May 23 at 9pm Sat., May 25 at 2pm
$20 or five shows for $69 at ticketrocket.org or 250-590-6291