I AM IZZY!  See Izzy Live in Vegas, In Cirque Du Soleil's sexy new spectacle ZUMANITY!

Winnipeg Free Press Saturday,
July 22, 2000

Heart-stealing clown from last summer's fest returns for more laughs, tears
By Kevin Prokosh

OTTAWA - Izzy is back! The red-nosed, white-faced clown in the Cinderella wedding dress stole everyone's heart last summer during her fringe festival performance Burnt Tongue.

Naive Izzy waited expectantly for a blind date who never arrived. Her pathetic predicament elicited both laughter and tears from patrons who also responded to the charming innocent with sympathy and protectiveness.

"She is completely vulnerable and it's that vulnerability that attracts people to her," says Shannan Calcutt, who is returning as Izzy in It's Me, Only Better! "Everyone can relate to it. People see themselves in Izzy."

A lot of people empathize with Izzy, if attendance at her six fringe festival stops last summer are any measure. More telling were the patrons who couldn't leave without offering a few post-performance words of encouragement. One of those was an older Winnipeg couple married for 60 years.

"The woman held my hand and the man had his hand on my shoulder and they told me, "That it was going to happen for me because I was a very pretty girl and that they had met on a blind date," recalls the 24-year-old blonde clown over a cup of coffee.

"They couldn't separate Izzy from reality. After a while you want to make an announcement that you're OK and are they?" About 60 per cent of her shows is scripted and the rest is improvisational as she plays off the reactions of her audience. She talks to many spectators during her performances and will invite, in the case of Burnt Tongue, men to come up on stage and wait with her. She asks the guy if he thinks she's pretty and whether he is a good kisser. Of course, the conversation will end with a kiss and somtime more.

"I've had guys carry me off the stage and I've had guys slip me the tongue during the kiss," says Calcutt, who has performed Burnt Tongue about 60 times. "Nine out of 10 guys in the show want to take me out for a drink. I get emails and letters addressed to Izzy. You start to get jealous of your own clown."

Calcutt, who was born in Indian Head, Sask., received an acting degree at the University of Victoria in 1993 and then studied clowning for eight months at the International School of Physical Theatre in California. She has spent years creating Izzy but doesn't share too many of the same attributes.

"I would never go to a blind date in a wedding dress," says Calcutt, whose father lives in Arborg. "Izzy's a risk-taker. She's me times a million."

As a clown, she must fight the public's disdain for the red-nosed set. Clownaphobics have an irrational fear about getting caught in a room with anybody wearing baggy pants, oversized feet and scream wigs. It's that stereotype which clowns like Calcutt must overcome in selling their fringe productions.

"A clown understands people," she says. "You should feel what a clown is feeling. An actor plays a character. The clown plays herself and the audience. Clowns show our ridiculousness. We're there to tell you to laugh off your mistakes. I don't think there is enough of that. I think we all take ourselves way too seriously."

In It's Me, Only Better, Izzy is finished with rejection and has applied to join the convent and is eagerly awaiting her acceptance. Terrified, she has to go to confession and she has a few secrets she is reluctant to divulge.

Calcutt is in the midst of a seven-fringe festival tour and promises she will be back with further exploits of Izzy. Says Calcutt, "Izzy is here to stay."


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