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The A.C.E. comedy troupe: Linda Klein, left, Barbara Gehring and Matthew Taylor.

'High Again' a real stilt trip

Towering talents of A.C.E. comedy troupe reach dizzying heights

May 31, 2002

It's not even noon and the members of the comedy troupe A.C.E. are talking about getting high again.

And when it comes to achieving an altered state, this American-Canadian-English trio is composed of experts. Forget pharmaceuticals; these comics get their buzz on by strapping on heavy-duty metal stilts and hitting the stage.

"We're into exploring the world of the tall," explains Barbara Gehring, the group's Canadian contingent.

The troupe will revisit that territory in High Again, The Return of Comedy on Stilts. Playing for two weekends at the Bug Theatre, the show blends zany characters, loosely structured sketches and spontaneous songs all performed by elevated entertainers.

"The stilts are actually a very small part of the show," says A.C.E.'s British member, Matthew Taylor. "We hope that eventually people won't even think about us being on stilts."

Together since 1998, the trio specializes in fast-paced, unscripted, frenetic entertainment. While some of the group's shows are improvised, others have a much higher production value, combining video presentations, elaborate costumes and musical numbers. And there are often pre-show surprises. The group's members have shrink-wrapped seats, watching with joy as theater-goers tear off the special sanitary plastic wrap. They've even posed as ballet parkers - parking patrons' cars in tutus.

"We love for our audience to be a part of it," Taylor says. "A lot of what we do in the pre-show is about giving them permission to laugh."

With High Again, the threesome plans to take full advantage of their collective increases in height. Towering 18 inches taller than usual, the performers will make a heavy metal band (appropriately named Death Puke) appear especially menacing. A trio of very tall and very hairy construction workers will turn a few heads. And as Irish dancers, the troupe shows off its fancy footwork while precariously perched on metal poles.

"We wore our stilts on a cruise ship last year, and that was the ultimate test," says American Linda Klein.

The troupe acquired its stilt talents by accident. In late 1999, the group was trying to land a corporate gig entertaining at a housewares convention in Chicago. When the client asked whether the trio did stilt work, the members lied and said yes.

"Before the meeting was over, we asked for an advance so we could buy stilts," Taylor recalls.

They plunked down $750 for three pairs of drywaller stilts and spent the rest of the afternoon honing their skills.

"It's just like having a 3-foot ankle," Klein says.

After putting any circus act to shame in Chicago, A.C.E. presented a public stilt show in Denver two years ago, titled High. Since then, the troupe has dragged its stilts around the world, making interesting discoveries along the way.

"I remember we wore them into this five-star hotel," Taylor says. "There were these people drinking $8 cocktails and I'm looking around thinking, 'This place is filthy.'"

But when it comes to props, the stilts might be merely the tip of the iceberg. Miniature bikes will soon make their way into A.C.E.'s act, and a monkey would be the ultimate addition.

"That's our dream - to have a monkey in one of our shows," Klein says.

Adds Gehring: "But we called and they're, like, $10,000 a day!"

High Again

The Return of Comedy on Stilts

When and where: 8 p.m. today, Saturday, June 7 and 8; Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St.

Cost: $15

Information: (303) 477-9984 or

or (303) 892-5350

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