How to Disappear Completely


In September of 2000, lighting designer Itai Erdal received a phone call telling him his mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and had nine months to live. Itai, a recent film-school graduate promptly moved back to Israel to spend every moment he could with his dying mother. During that time he shot hours of film and hundreds of pictures, documenting the final months of her life. In a starkly simple yet deeply profound new work, Erdal invites us to witness the story about the circumstances surrounding his mother’s passing. At the heart of this is Mery Erdal’s vibrant personality, the strong bond she had with her son and how she faced her imminent death.

The Chop Theatre is excited to partner with the Chutzpah! Festival in order to develop and produce How to Disappear Completely, a personal yet universal story of life, death and the special tie between and a mother and her son.

A New Play by: Itai Erdal, James Long, Anita Rochon and Emelia Symington Fedy.

Performed by Itai Erdal

Chutzpah! Festival
950 West 41st Avenue
Feb 17th - 27th, 2011

"For years Vancouver theatregoers have sung the praises of local lighting designer Itai Erdal, now it’s time to change our tune and marvel instead at this man’s bravery... He’s not an actor, but being a typically loquacious Israeli lends Erdal the skills of a strong storyteller... The result is warm, witty and, naturally, beautifully lit."

Peter Birnie, Vancouver Sun - Feb. 22, 2011


"As a performer, Erdal appears completely at ease and totally engaging on stage... This is intimate theatre that's astonishingly brave and completely entertaining. How To Disappear Completely inspires us to live like a Parcan, shining brightly then glowing warmly as we fade to black."

Jo Ledingham, Vancouver Courier - Fe. 25, 2011


"It may sound like a grim, three-hankie experience, but along with the tears (and they do come, eventually), there is humour, and life. Emotional manipulation and melodrama are mercifully absent... What could have been a dark show is driven in fact by light. The professional insights of Erdal, who at times operates the lighting from the stage, are used to great effect to illuminate his story, becoming a metaphor for his experiences and for life’s big questions. The most powerful scenes in the show are heightened more by dramatic lighting than by any video footage; he uses the medium he knows so intimately to transcend the private, and present theatre with universal resonance... A charismatic and natural storyteller, Erdal is the kind of guy who’s probably a hit at dinner parties..."  

Marsha Lederman, Globe and Mail - Feb. 18, 2011


"The event is so personal that it feels like I’m about to review Erdal’s private journal. But it is also a work of art. As art, How to Disappear Completely has several strengths, including the introduction of Erdal’s mother, Mery. Erdal does a live translation of the clip’s Hebrew dialogue, he impersonates his sister, nailing her gestures and emotional tone... Erdal is a prominent theatrical-lighting designer, and with his collaborators—director James Long, dramaturge Anita Rochon, and sound designer Emelia Symington Fedy—he uses the discussion of lighting as storytelling device... How to Disappear Completely is an impressive accomplishment for Erdal, who is a first-time writer and actor. And the love in this piece is so palpable that it feels like a solid."  

Colin Thomas, The Georgia Straight - February 18, 2011


How To Disappear Completely redefines what an actor is and what theatre is; it is simply Itai Erdal telling the story of a part of his and his mother's life. You do not need to be a trained actor to be a compelling storyteller, you do not have to know movement, technique, or be able to sing or dance. You can be yourself, talk about yourself, and tell a story that’s close and important to you. Sounds easy right? We all know not everybody can do that successfully. But lighting designer Itai Erdal can and does. Here is an artist who is not an actor and who tells a very personal story the core of which focuses on his mother’s struggle with cancer, and how he was there with her until the end. It sounds like the gist of many cancer patient stories but trust me, it is not.
...As we get to know him we fall in love with him, and his mother as well. She is such an intelligent woman whose enigmatic personality is clear from the footage we see and from the anecdotes Itai tells. Itai shares with us his mother’s words of wisdom that money is only a means to a good life and a prolonged death. Perhaps his filming of every last moment was his way of prolonging her death, and preserving as much of her as he possibly could.
The piece is funny, touching, honest, intimate, and most of all, brave. Erdal truly opened up to a dark room full of strangers. How can one not admire that?
How to Disappear Completely, Chop Theatre
Beat Rice, The Charlesbois Post

Try to imagine a completely selfless act of egotism. It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but in the hands of a gifted storyteller it becomes a funny, poignant and vastly entertaining seventy-five minute journey through some of life’s most difficult, joyous, and memorable moments. Itai Erdal’s one-man show, How To Disappear Completely, is a brilliantly lit, beautifully written, and seamlessly performed monologue of scoreless operatic proportions that defy gravity as hilarious flights of fancy, alongside interactive segments filled with bravado and delightful self-assurance, pay homage to a life lived to the fullest.
Erdal’s connection to classic lighting design, bringing a variety of evocative shadows to any given drama, coupled with his desire to make documentary films, seep into the narrative and give the overall mise en scene a complex metaphoric quality that is at once haunting, wry, and utterly engaging.
Beginning with the admission that he is not an actor Erdal proceeds to prove that brilliant storytelling and high caliber acting are one in the same thing as he nonchalantly interacts with film footage of his mother, sister, and best friend during especially trying times. The sheer magnetism and charisma of all the characters on film, and Erdal’s own stage presence, turn this virtuoso solo performance into a gorgeous ensemble of memory, experience, and profound loyalty.
As part of Factory Theatre’s Annual Festival of Groundbreaking New Work, How to Disappear Completely is a perfect gem-like theatrical hybrid that summons and dismisses both light and darkness, literally and figuratively, with the flick of a switch. See for yourself - there will be shadows, follow spots, and heartwarming humility in the face of sheer confidence and skill as they interact with incredibly deep-seated familial bonds.
How to Disappear Completely, Chop Theatre
David Bateman, Bateman Reviews
May 8th, 2012

Contrary to what you might expect the play is not morbid at all.  It is often full of humour.  Paradoxically, by focussing so intently on his mother’s inescapable decline as she succumbs to the disease, Erdal in fact memorializes her vitality.  He also presents us with a truth we all must face.
...Erdal's discussion of lighting and its effects is fascinating in itself and theatre-goers who have never paid much attention to the artistry behind lighting design will gain a new appreciation of it from this show. The point of Erdal’s demonstrations shows his mastery of his craft. His videos of his dying mother show his attempt to create a sense of control over something – dying – that is totally beyond his control. Erdal thus uses several means to distance himself and us from his subject – the formality of his interviews, his simultaneous translation of what is said from Hebrew into English and the self-consciousness he fosters about his performance as performance on stage. His stage presentation of the film excerpts parallels what he is doing within the film itself – using a rational framework to capture a subject fraught with emotion. Because of those frameworks the play become a personal tribute to his mother’s own calm and rationality in the face of death and sobering memento mori for the entire audience.
Erdal’s mother, a professor of Latin American literature told him that all literature has only two subjects – love and death.  Erdal’s play links both. Ultimately, his play does not show us How to Disappear Completely. Through the art of her son Mery Erdal lives on in the minds of all who see the show.
How to Disappear Completely, Chop Theatre
Christopher Hoile,
May 9th, 2012


An Article from Canadian Jewish News about the show.




All Photos: Emily Cooper