The Never Before, Never Again festival at Triskelion Arts

For one night only: W’burg theater hosts new improv fest

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Do you want to join the Pen15 Club?

Then mark “Jan. 29” on your hand and head to Williamsburg’s Triskelion Arts for a night of completely improvised dance and comedy at the performance space’s new Never Before, Never Again festival.

The Pen15 Club is a Brooklyn comedy-dance troupe whose name references the childhood prank in which an unsuspecting kid agrees to join the “pen 15” club and have the name scrawled in marker on their hand, only to realize it looks like something completely different when written down.

But the titillatingly-titled group will be playing a different silly game at the festival. The foursome starts by asking an audience member to tell a short story about a bizarre event from their life. The ensemble then reenacts the story again and again, getting stranger and stranger with each iteration, a Pen15 Club member explained.

“The first time we will reenact the story exactly as it is told, identifying each of us as certain charters in the given story,” said Ruth Ward, one of the four members of the group, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. “The next couple of times we reenact there will be stipulations to motivate the comical aspects. These stipulations include, but are not limited to changes in speed, reenacting the story as a musical, or attaching a foreign accent to the characters.”

To prepare for its “story time” game, Ward said the quartet has been improvising stories in rehearsal from newspapers, magazines, and their own experiences — like the time one member’s elderly neighbor knocked on his door in hysterics because her kitchen sink was overflowing with water.

“He bailed all the water in the sink into the bathtub, called the landlord, and waited with her for the handyman. She thanked him and Jesus, and as you can imagine we had a lot of fun manipulating this scene and playing these characters,” said Ward.

But Ward said she is actually hoping for a less eventful story for the live show.

“I honestly hope that the audience member has a classic New York City story that will appear mundane and not comical so that they can witness just how hilarious we can make the scene,” she said.

The Pen15 Club is one of 29 groups performing at Never Before, Never Again, which will run through Feb. 1. The members of Kickstand Dance, the dance company behind Triskelion, wanted to create a showcase for the diverse talent found in its multi-use studios and theaters, an organizer said.

“We wanted to develop a new festival to reflect the far-reaching and wide range of work that’s created within Triskelion’s walls,” said Abby Bender, Triskelion Arts’ artistic director. “Audiences can expect to see dance, comedy, music, action theater, video, spoken word, Butoh, and more.”

Each piece will be five to 15 minutes long, with eight groups performing on each of the four nights. And the festival will definitely live to its name, Bender promised.

“Since it’s improvised, viewers will experience the unfolding of the works alongside the artists — a shared excitement,” she said. “Each night will be a totally different show, thus the ‘Never Before, Never Again.”

The Pen15 Club at Never Before, Never Again at Triskelion Arts’ Aldous Theater [118 N. 11th St., third floor, between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 599–3577,]. Jan. 29 at 8 pm. $16.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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