Itai Erdal

TBA:13: Itai Erdal lights and unlights the way

Itai Erdal's performance piece "How to Disappear Completely" is about dying...or is it living?


Life in its most literal sense is about appearing (being born) and disappearing (dying). Dying, that liminal time when one is in the process of “disappearing completely,” has come more and more into the public consciousness as social media and video has made the process immediate and widely accessible. The result has been to peel away the layers and emotions surrounding dying, allowing us to see what has more traditionally been kept private and hidden.

Itai Erdal, who has created “How to Disappear Completely,” is a lighting designer. Light is used to make objects and people appear and disappear on stage. By adjusting the amount, quality, and type of light the designer can conceal and reveal not just the physical bodies on stage but also sculpt the emotional landscape.

Erdal uses this metaphor between how light works on stage and how one disappears when one dies to share the emotionally charged story of the death of his mother. We are taken through a beautifully sculpted narrative which starts with Erdal returning home to Jerusalem from his new home in Vancouver, Canada (where he was in film school), to be with his mother as she dies of lung cancer. Ever the documentarian, Erdal films those months, giving us interviews with his mother, stepfather, sister, and best friend.

Itai Erdal in "How to Disappear Completely"/Photo by Tomas Vallardes courtesy of PICA

Itai Erdal in “How to Disappear Completely”/Photo by Tomas Vallardes courtesy of PICA

His intention to turn this footage into a film about his mother’s passing never materialized, however, but this show did. The multi-media theater piece uses elements of lighting design, which Erdal patiently explains and demonstrates; pieces of the film he made are projected on an upstage screen; and Erdal, the actor, is on hand to explore the story, which it turns out is not only “how to disappear” but actually how to live.


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