What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, including the adult antics of Shannan Calcutt’s clown character Izzy.
Writer, actor, instructor and clown extraordinaire Calcutt is a decade-long Las Vegas performer in Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity. The show’s co-comedic director and the clown coach for Cirque’s resident shows, Calcutt is best known as Izzy, the charming and radiant clown with the keen sense of timing and a razor sharp wit.
“I’m doing Izzy in Vegas but she’s certainly more grown up than she is in the play I’m bringing to UVic,” Calcutt said in a phone call from Vegas.
In Burnt Tongue, Izzy met a man on the internet. She decides he’s ‘the one’ and arrives for their blind date wearing a wedding dress.
“She’s just very prepared to be spontaneous. She’s ready so anything can happen,” Calcutt said.
It’s a return to the Island and a return to the show. The last time Calcutt performed Burnt Tongue was in Halifax more than a decade ago when it was filmed for Singular series.
She’s been back to UVic a number of times, as a guest artist in the early 2000s, and to teach a handful of clown intensives followed by performances.
“I have been back but it’s been at least 11 years. I am very excited to come back. It’s going to be very fun,” she said. “I love to be on the Island. It’s a pretty different feeling than being here. I’m looking forward to that sense of community.”
Burnt Tongue, co-written by Sue Morrison, has been running since 1999 and anchors the trio of solo shows that make the 50th Anniversary Alumni Festival at Phoenix Theatre.
Forever intertwined by their UVic connections, the alumni festival started with the the One-Man Marathon of Charlie Ross, which was directed by TJ Dawe who then took on the second show with The Slipknot.
“I’m honoured. They are extraordinary artists and incredible human beings as well,” Calcutt said. “We were all there at the same time. We all worked together, we were all in shows together and have and a relationship since the Phoenix.”
In the early days she wound up working in Barkerville with Charlie, and then just recently had him out to Vegas where he was working with her husband. They stay connected, and perhaps in part because of the similarities of how each crafted a career.
“TJ and Charlie and I have made our own breaks. For me I was interested in viewing my own work,” Calcutt said. A former mime teacher phrased it best: “He said ‘Why would you wait for someone to cast you in their project which you don’t believe in, which you’re not inspired to do, and work with someone who is not top top in his field.’ It was an eye opener.
“All three of us create our own material and tour it on a large scale, distance I mean. It’s huge. Even if you’re an actor who really wants to be cast in mainstream theatre a show of your own is a huge showcase.”
She’s grateful for her opportunities to first be a student, then guest instructor at UVic and anticipates a fond return, hopefully featuring a few familiar faces.
“UVic is a really special place. It’s one of those things where you leave and in reflection have an even greater sense of respect. To be invited back … and that they’re doing this big festival it’s an honour,” she said. “It’s a fun homecoming. UVic to me has always been a real sense of community. Everybody really wanted you to do well so it’s a special place to be.”
Each performance features a post-show talk back with the artist, quite a departure from Vegas. She goes from entertaining 1,300 a night to the more intimate Bishop Theatre.
“I’m also very excited about having that intimate opportunity to meet people and connect with them. … People have always connected so strong with Izzy,” she said. “I think that’s going to be very refreshing for me.”
Burnt Tongue runs Oct. 25 to 29 to finish the 50th Anniversary Alumni Festival. Visit finearts.uvic.ca/theatre/phoenix/ for ticket and showtime information.