(Pandemic) Postcard Profile: Artist, improvisor and IGNITE! Festival curator Nicole Zylstra

For the last 15 years, the IGNITE! Festival for Emerging Artists presented by Sage Theatre has facilitated the showcasing of emerging voices in our city.

IGNITE! works to shine a light on the most inspiring and promising young artists across four series of Theatre, Dance, Improv and Provocation (as well as an Emerging Visual Arts Exhibit and an Emerging Journalist). This year, because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the festival is operating under a at-a-distance model and is moving to the distant and digital words!

Caroline Russell-King chats with improvisor, facilitator and burgeoning songwriter Nicole Zylstra for a Postcard Profile (with a nod to Bernard Pivot and James Lipton)

What is the next project for you?

I’m working with the Foothills Music Institute as a songwriter and I’m working with IGNITE! Festival as it moves online. When the world goes back to normal, I will be doing improvised Chekov with The Kinkonauts’.

How do you contribute to this piece?

As a songwriter I wrote and performed a song called Guess I’m From Here Now. And for IGNITE! I curated the gut-busting Improv Series.

What is your greatest creative challenge?

Meeting new challenges, solving problems. I think of myself as a creative problem solver.

What turns you on creatively?

I like breaking the rules successfully.

What turns you off creatively?

Too many rules, man! (Laughs) That and getting up early.

What’s one thing you’re really good at?

I’ve been told I’m really good at everything and great at nothing!

If you could resurrect and share a drink with a dead person who would it be?

I’d have a margarita with Ellen Terry (1847 –1928, considered the leading Shakespearean and comic actress in Britain).

What is one thing you wish you’d known sooner?

Everything! That money’s important after all. One day you’ll need money.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I’m interested in particle physics and what the nature of reality really is.

What would you do with extreme wealth?

Start a foundation at McGill University for the Arts, buy a theatre for The Kinkonauts’, give out philanthropic awards, buy a guitar, build a deck …

What is one piece of advice you would give to the person who wants to do what you do?

Do something else. Money is important. Love isn’t everything. Be born to wealth. Marry well.

This year’s IGNITE! Festival is by donation and runs until June 13. For show schedules go to

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here at