Before the show.
I've decided to go watch How to Disappear Completely, and I'm looking forward to it.
I was originally planning on just watching one undercurrents show and the choice was between Forstner & Fillister and How to Disappear Completely. I decided on Forstner & Fillister because, as I mentioned in my previous entry, I was looking for something light-hearted. When I was there, however, one of the girls sitting in front of me made conversation with me thinking she knew me from somewhere (she did not), and she ended up telling me she had watched How to Disappear Completely just before Forstner & Fillister and she liked it a lot. It made me want to maybe check it out after all, and I'm dragging my brother with me to go watch it, as he is currently visiting me here in Ottawa.
The reason I was originally interested in watching it was because, in the description, they say that Itai Erdal is an award-winning lighting designer, and I wanted to see how he would use his skills in a small venue to tell such a personal, intimate story. Now that I've decided to go watch it, this is what I'm most looking forward to, because I've come to love and appreciate lighting design, and it's always amazing to me how subtle and effective lighting is when it comes to telling a story. Lights push the atmosphere of what you're watching just that much more, and they're able to create a feeling that the audience instinctively understands, even if they can't explain it.
I think that's what's so interesting about being in a society so saturated with film and media: there's a visual language that comes through to all consumers that we don't necessarily think about, but we feel it. Warm lighting makes us feel comfortable and safe, cold lighting is scarier or disturbing, flashing lights are (usually) alarming... We don't always consciously think about it, but we've seen consumed enough media to understand the feelings. I find that lighting design plays with this so effectively, and I can't wait to see what an award-winning lighting designer can do.
Furthermore, I'm interested in the way he will integrate video projection into his storytelling, because from what I understand from the description, it seems like he will be using video in his piece as well.
The story looks like it's going to be an emotional ride and I get this feeling that, after I watch this, I'll want to talk about the story and my emotions a lot more. For now though, if I'm being honest, I'm definitely mostly interested for the technical aspects of the show.
After the show.
This show is an amazing example of intimate theatre. I loved so many things about it, and it was fun to experience it with my brother because he's never been to a theatre festival before or seen a show even remotely like this—he's used to seeing the big touring Broadway shows, so it was fun to bring him along and open his show-going world a little bit!
There are so many things I could say about this show that I loved, but I'm going to start with the lighting because that was what I was most excited about. I was right to be excited for his award-winning lighting skills, and I was not disappointed in the slightest! The way he explained what each light he had on stage could do and what he used them for made me feel like I was watching a behind-the-scenes video on stage tech. The whole show actually made me feel like I was getting a look behind the scenes, because as he says at the start, Itai isn't an actor, so the whole thing just felt like a fun conversation he was having with us (and I guess, in a sense, it really was).
I love that he shows us the way a PAR can light gets warmer as it dims and talks about how near the end, every percent counts, not only demonstrating how interesting this light is but implying that metaphor between his mother's life and the dimming light. I also enjoyed when he makes a square of light and walks into it, talking about how he can do that to emulate a skylight, to just make the scene look cooler, or to denote when something important is going to be said right before he starts saying something important. My last favourite lighting thing he explains to us is when he talks about how he'd light each person he's mentioned in his story, especially when he talks about the way he'd light Pedro, his mother's second husband—how he'd start with a harsh, scary light from the front to make him look imposing (a guy in front of me actually recoiled slightly when the light went on to create all those contrasting shadows on Itai's face and I thought that was funny), but then he would slowly shine a warmer light over Pedros' whole body so that, "by the end, you like him", as Itai explains. Other notable fun lighting things were: how he pointed out that shinbusters highlight the whole body to your audience; the rave lighting he creates and how he danced in front of the projection screen as a dark silhouette; how he starts the show in the complete dark, depriving you of one of your senses as he talks about how actors should be lit, but he isn't an actor; and how he controls a lot of the lighting cues himself with his cell phone, adding to the intimate feeling because you get the impression that he's doing everything himself (until the rave part of the show, when he starts shouting about adding strobe lights and gobos).
Sorry, I went on a bit of a tangent about all the cool lighting things he did during his show, but it was so awesome to learn so much about lighting design in such a short time, and alongside such a personal story. He says during the show that lighting is the most ephemeral part of a show because people will remember lines and performances and sets, but they won't really remember the lights. In his show, he makes the lights front-and-centre and one of the main aspects of the show, complementing the story by creating the feeling before showing us clips of his documentary.
The more I think about, the more I realize how creative this piece was. On paper, you would think that showing parts of a documentary, explaining stage lighting, and telling personal stories wouldn't fit together to make a show, and yet Itai Erdal has tied them altogether and made them work together in one show. In 887, everything Lepage talked about and showcased were related to his story, but sometimes Itai would go off on a tangent or just talk about his life. I guess it ties in better because Lepage's story was about a specific event and poem that affected him, but Itai's story was about his mother, and mothers affect peoples' whole lives.
Anyways, I'm inclined to disagree with Itai's statement because, as I talked about pre-show, lights create feelings and if there's one thing I will always take away from a show, it's how that show made me feel.
The story itself was very good. I didn't get as emotional as I expected I would, but that's because he added quite a few lighthearted parts to his story, where he told jokes for levity. He is a captivating storyteller, his voice full of emotion and enthusiasm, his gestures wide, his facial expressions earnest and comical. There's a game show-esque part of the show where he shows you he knows all the capitals of the world and I found that a bit cheesy and out of the blue, but it might have worked better with a more participatory audience (ours only had two or three people shouting out countries).
I thought it was a good touch to play with the size of the screen, so that it's not always the same frame of projection every single time we watch a clip from his documentary. The way he translates by talking over the clips was a good choice to me because, in this way, he's still a part of the show and it's less like we're watching a movie during those parts. I just wish the volume of the documentary clips was lower as I found that they occasionally conflicted with his voice a little too much.
Walking into the space, I was also surprised to see a curtain drawn through the stage. I had been in the same space the day before for Forstner & Fillister but the curtain made the space much shallower and it changed the feel of the venue completely, again adding to the intimacy of the story Itai was about to share with us. It was also much darker, I assume to further cement his lighting skills–just Itai, his lights, and a projection screen in the dark. It made it difficult to take a selfie, but that's definitely a tangential note.
In one of the documentary clips, his sister says that you can never tell a whole story, even if you try. That stayed with me because I find it so relevant to what I'm interested in and to what I usually try to do: tell stories, whether it's through film, photography, or other forms of art. Itai only highlights this when, at the end, he mentions that he had a wife even though throughout the whole show, he's been talking as if he's never settled down.
How to Disappear Completely really make you think about life, family, and how you can never really know where your own life will take you. His mother and his whole family never expected she would get cancer and die so early, and I'm sure Itai never would have thought his documentary footage would end up being in a play that he would take to Ottawa to show at undercurrents. It's a personal, intimate, self-reflective show that educates you about stage lighting while it tells a thought-provoking story, and I can't believe I took so much away from 70 minutes of theatre.
Hello! My name is Reine Tejares, and this is my blog for THE 2100: The Theatrical Event at the University of Ottawa.