Free Press Saturday,
July 22, 2000
Heart-stealing clown from last summer's fest returns for more
By Kevin Prokosh
- 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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."