Lauren Stein’s Toronto Fringe Play

The Jewish Tribune – July 5, 2011

CREATOR’S APARTMENT IS VENUE FOR LAURENTINA’S FUNHOUSE

By Shlomit Kriger

TORONTO – From a Cabin of Curiosities to a popping floor to alternate identities and a circus tent, visitors will discover tantalizing surprises on a journey through the peculiar world of Laurentina’s Funhouse.

The largely improvised play, starring Laurentina (Lauren Stein), is part of the Toronto Fringe Festival and takes place in the creator’s apartment in downtown’s Kensington Market. Prancing around in a multi-coloured outfit complete with a feather boa, the quirky and bubbly Laurentina pulls audience members into an amusing, intimate experience that can ignite the wild side of even the very shy as she asks for input and leads some improv games.

They’re participating in one last “ballyhoo” before her retirement from the circus to pursue her long-hidden desire to become an accountant.

“I like to blur the lines between performer and observer,” said 26-year-old Stein. “I believe that everybody has the talent, the ability, and the creativity to be their own star, but so many people hide it or just don’t use it.

“I want people to get back in touch with their inner child, that freedom, that joy.”

Stein’s experience at the Bellyacres circus farm in Hawaii in June 2008 helped spark the idea for the play’s theme. To add pizzazz to the atmosphere, friends, fellow artists, and others helped paint her apartment, hang items from the ceiling, and lend stuffed animals, accounting books, and various odd pieces that visitors will stumble across on the funhouse tour.

Stein’s first acting stint was a role in Really Rosie at a Toronto synagogue at age five. After earning a drama degree from the University of Guelph in 2006, she became smitten by improv and went on to receive training at Impatient Theatre Co., Second City, and Artistic New Directions in New York.

For the past two years, she has been providing her own improv classes.

“Improv is spontaneous, honest, personal, healing, and creative,” said Stein. “It’s everything that human interactions should be.

“Now that I’ve seen that improv is more than just ‘that fun thing we do between rehearsals,’ I don’t look at scripted work the same way.”

In the past year, Stein has also started hosting events and classes led by holistic practitioners, musicians, and other professionals in her apartment and running a weekly variety show, all while pursuing further studies in speech and drama and entrepreneurship.

Her future plans involve nothing short of spreading her wings higher and wider.

“I would say world domination, but then somebody somewhere would read this and think I’m hosting a Jewish conspiracy. So I’ll stick to the smaller things: creating a troupe that performs in hospitals and other places that need more joy, turning my studio into a community centre, hosting singles workshops and events – especially for nerds, running more festivals, and travelling.”

Laurentina’s Funhouse runs July 6 to 17. To purchase tickets visit http://laurentina.me, and for more information on Stein’s improv classes visit laurentinasimprovclub.info

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