On the Loose – Comedians at Zoofest!

Kelly Calabrese at Zoofest

For two weeks, I had the chance to live the Zoofest life as a performing artist, and I can say without question that the Zoofest logo suits the event perfectly: The fierce face of a panther flanked by wings that set it free – and without a body for gravity to hold on to.

The festival illuminates emerging talents with alternative programming that includes comedy, theatre, music and other genres, while setting comedians loose to live, laugh and explore the beauty of  Montreal within the setting of one centralized, artistic community.

I am thrilled to have partaken in the Zoofest phenomenon, an invitation received on behalf of the play Scottish Sperm, written by Jacqueline McLaren and directed by Grant Kretchik.  A smartly written new dark comedy, Scottish Sperm tells the tale of three characters – Emma (played by me, Kelly Calabrese), Sarah (Veronika Dash) and Robert (Dylan Lamb) – who are stuck in the crossroads of their lives.

Their refusal to move on leads them to destroy the relationships they are attempting to save. The hilarious, irreverent, and piercing dialogue of Scottish Sperm follows these characters as they learn how to handle love, loss and whiskey. It’s a soul searching path that in many ways lines up with my Zoofest encounter, as well as with the image of a panther with wings and no body for gravity to hold on to.

Much like a panther…

Every night during Zoofest I had the honour of descending upon the stage at Theatre Sainte Catherine to fiercely take on an art form that I have adored since I first performed in Babes in Toyland when I was seven years old

For 11 shows, from July 10 through July 22, Sainte Catherine’s stage became a springboard for self-exploration. I had the chance to bound deeper and deeper into the skin of my character, to face the absolute truth of how it feels to live as Emma. In my discoveries, I also learned how much power can come from the most subtle of roars when the voice of that roar is natural and honest.

Graced by Zoofest’s wings…

I reached new levels of inspiration. The acting brilliance of Scottish Sperm’s Veronika Dash and Dylan Lamb, as well as the many talented Zoofest performances including Two Girls Smoke a Cigarette in Only 30 Seconds, Dick Powell’s in the mood for Jazz, and Sam Simmons About the Weather helped me realize what it takes to swoop in and captivate an audience.

No body for gravity to hold on to…

Every moment gave me a new found sense of freedom to explore and enjoy everything around me.

Alongside my Scottish Sperm team, I soaked up the charm of Montreal, a city so similar yet unique from our home base of New York. Together we explored the beautiful beaches of Parc Jean-Drapeau, rode the coasters at La Ronde amusement park, indulged in the culinary fair of Little Italy, picnicked by the Port’s waterfalls, strolled through Old Montreal, danced at the Esplanade, met new friends and indulged in our fair share of Canadian spirits.

I highly recommend Zoofest 2013 to all performers and audiences. I am eternally grateful for the passionate people who put on Zoofest, including our writer Jacqueline McLaren, the entire McLaren team who produced and supported the Scottish Sperm spectacle, our director Grant Kretchik and for my dear castmates – Veronika Dash and Dylan Lamb  – who made me feel like part of a family.

For two weeks in Montreal…

The sights refreshed my eyes, the people etched fond memories in my mind, and La Ronde’s 52 meter rollercoaster drop made my heart claw up my spine! Above all, performing every night at Zoofest made me feel more alive.

Zoofest turned out to be one great adventure, which has left its mark on my core forever.

Kelly Calabrese at Zoofest

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