Izzy the Unlikely Ingénue

A chat with Zumanity’s comic relief on the occasion of its eighth anniversary

Shannan Calcutt is a clown who spends night after night around perfect-bodied hotties while performing in Zumanity. Her character, Izzy, defuses all that sexual tension by offering jokes about such delicate topics as sex toys and breast implants. A native of Canada, Calcutt worked in regional theater and had a trilogy of shows playing Izzy. After being solo for so long, Calcutt was eager to join the ensemble at Zumanity, when she was invited in 2005. In celebration of its eighth anniversary, she talks about going topless onstage, how the show has changed and what it’s like to have a clown for an alter ego.

What’s your favorite part about playing the clown?

Everyone is very gorgeous and very sexy, so that’s a bit intimidating. But the good side is that you very much feel the relationship with the crowd because there is a relief that there is someone onstage that looks like them. They can relate to you.

In a solo act, you do an infomercial for “scotch baggies” that make your boobs look bigger. You go topless in this scene. How does that feel?

I have been topless in audiences of 300, where you can see everyone and they can see you. Here I can’t see past 10 rows, so that’s good.

How does comedy affect a sexy show?

Me and my clown partner, Nicky Dewhurst, come out pre-show with dildos and sex toys, so if you don’t know what you’re getting into then you are about to find out. If you are uncomfortable or you are a bit tense, then our goal is to make people have fun and laugh and relax.

Is it more fun to perform solo or in a group?

There is a lot of improvisation with the audience members, and for me that is a lot of fun. The more that can go wrong the more fun I have. When you do a solo act the audience is your partner, but it is certainly nice working next to someone.

What has changed since you joined Zumanity in 2005?

I think that the artists have grown, and so the show has grown as a result of that. We have had a lot of different artistic directors, and they all have a great vision and everyone cares about the show and there is a passion there. I think the show is the best it’s ever been.

How do your costumes compare to everybody else’s?

They are definitely not as sexy as the other characters. We have a different costume designer than the other costumes if that’s what you are asking.

How does Shannan relate to Izzy?

She is me at my most extreme. She is me and I am her, but of course I wouldn’t want anyone to know that. You find out what your idiosyncrasies are and your ridiculousness, and instead of hiding it, you embrace it and rock it. Like I am out there every night selling these “tits” that clearly nobody would ever buy. She is trying to be sexier and look like the other women and trying to let everybody know they can, too.

Do you ever get recognized outside the show?

I don’t, but once when I was out having dinner at Olives this person approached me because they recognized my laugh from the show.

Is there really Scotch in those baggies that your character drinks from?

Of course. It’s all about how you negotiate your contract.

Zumanity: The Sensual Side of Cirque du Soleil, at New York-New York, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Fri-Tue, $69 and up, 740-6815.

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