Photo by Janet Cordahi Photo by Janet Cordahi

Vanessa Purdy talks to Lauren Stein, improviser, writer and creator of the show, Laurentina’s Funhouse, most recently staged at the Fringe Fest.

What was the inspiration for this production?

It was inspired by the fact that my home IS a funhouse. From day one, I would invite people to write on my walls and answer questions in my notebooks, give tours of the silly features and no-waste environment here, throw 12-hour parties and make people perform scenes and tricks and music and whatever talent they had!

When I submitted my title to the Fringe show, I realised that Funhouse also has a circus connotation. Ever since spending a month in a circus farm in Hawaii, I have been inspired by the circus. The fact that it's so over the top, that there is constant stimulation and non-stop action. It is so theatrical, so colourful, so light-hearted, humorous and fun -- and that's how I wanted my apartment to look! Now my walls, my elephant fridge and bubble-wrap floor, my tent entrance-way and animal mural -- my own home inspires me!

Where do you see yourself in the Toronto improv community as a whole -- I've never heard of someone doing anything quite like you do, and it seems super cool.

I see myself as the bridge between the improv world -- whose classes are aimed at making people improv superstars, and whose shows are often only attended by an audience of improvisers -- and people who are too shy to ever attempt something that really, they should.

Can you tell me a bit about the differences between you and Laurentina?

That is a good question indeed -- in fact, it's an issue I struggle with as well! Where do I (who often goes by Laurentina, who is a natural performer who is over the top, and yet who also studies business and accounting) end and the character Laurentina (who was born in the circus and only wears colourful, crazy clothes) begin? I perform circus feats only in the theatre of the imagination, as part of my circus-themed show. I was actually born into a civilian life, and would never want to give it all up for the corporate life. Despite the fact that I do love numbers.

You say your goal with your improv classes is to make your students a better person...will I also be a better person if I come see this show?

I hope so. You might see your life in a whole new light. I hope to inspire people either to find the wonder in the every day, or to change their lives if they don't see a bright and shiny future!

So far I've inspired at least one person to redecorate her home.

What is it about the circus that appeals to you, and how does it connect with improv?

Circus is a place that evokes a sense of awe and wonder. Like improv, anything can happen! The impossible becomes possible as your imagination takes control. And you realise -- no matter how old or young you are -- that there really is such a thing as magic. Even if magic is just the fact that you can believe in something so wonderful.

If I'm a bit shy but really interested in your show, how worried should I be about being asked to participate?

Don't be worried! Audience interaction is based on how comfortable each person is. At every show, there are a few outspoken members who like to ask questions and steal a bit of attention. There are also people who hang back and make no remarks. I welcome both kinds! I might interact with you, but you don't have to do anything. That is, until the improv games begin, at which point everyone around you might look silly, but like they're having fun! You only have to participate to the extent that you feel comfortable.

In one word, what can I expect from this show?

Expect the UNEXPECTED!

To find out more about Laurentina, visit

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