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
"We're into exploring the world of the tall,"
explains Barbara Gehring, the group's Canadian
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
"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
"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
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!"
The Return of Comedy on Stilts
When and where: 8 p.m. today, Saturday, June 7 and 8;
Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St.
Information: (303) 477-9984 or www.acecomedy.com