How Girls Only - The Secret Comedy of Women® came to be…
Girls Only finds its roots in a dense body work created by the Denver-based improvisational comedy troupe A.C.E., a trio made up of Barbara Gehring (a Canadian), Linda Klein (an American) and Matthew Taylor (an Englishman). The threesome has been together since 1989, writing and performing. A.C.E. has a unique style, with shows that are at once highly structured but absolutely free-spirited, full of spontaneous, unrehearsed dialogue and an exuberant engagement with the audience.
For the first several years of its existence, A.C.E. held itself to a tough work ethic: one new production a month. With sights set high, they generated a phenomenal amount of content in a very short time, constantly creating and performing. In the summer of 2004, when Taylor was gone on an extended vacation, Gehring and Klein didn’t want to stop performing, so they opted to write a show for just the two of them – and so the door opened to what would become Girls Only. It wasn’t until this girly show got some very extraordinary responses that it was seen as anything set apart from the other 50-plus shows A.C.E. had created.
Gehring and Klein had both re-discovered their junior high diaries that summer and after reading them to each other and just howling (and cringing), they knew those precious little books would be great fodder for a comedy show. The diaries set the tone for everything else in the show – elements both beautifully innocent and very funny – as the girls incorporated other personal moments a woman experiences through life. It also became clear as the women developed the show that it would be much more fun if only women attended, allowing for a slumber party atmosphere and for greater vulnerability both on stage and in the audience.
The original production of Girls Only was performed just one night, but the response was exceptional. Gehring and Klein were used to folks enjoying their shows and laughing a lot, but that night there was a different kind of passionate energy in the room. They knew they had tapped in to something very special.
The show did not return to the A.C.E. line-up for three more years. It was in 2007, with Taylor’s wholehearted approval, that Gehring and Klein decided to spend a year exhaustively refining and tightening the show. It was performed in front of a variety of audiences and the reaction was always the same - women loved it.
That year of hard work culminated in a sold-out six-week run early in 2008 at the Avenue Theatre in Denver, Colorado. They extended to seven weeks, selling-out every performance. Girls Only was the hottest ticket in town. During this run Gehring was seven months pregnant with her second child, so the show couldn’t be extended further. But the girls found that closing the show after just seven weeks was like trying to stop a freight train. Weeks after the run ended women were still calling the box office asking for tickets.
All of this commotion caught the attention of Randy Weeks, the Executive Director of Denver Center Attractions, just a mile away at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts. After some thoughtful consideration (and some very excited jumping up and down) Gehring and Klein decided The Denver Center was a perfect match for their show.
Girls Only returned to the stage, this time at the Garner Galleria Theatre in the fall of 2008 to throngs of eager women wanting to spend a couple of hours with their girlfriends, sisters, mothers and daughters and be reminded of all that is funny about being a girl.
The show ran continuously for nearly two years at the Garner Galleria Theatre playing to 96,000 women and grossing nearly $2.5 million. Additional productions have sprung up in Des Moines, Charlotte, Winnipeg and Minneapolis. More cities to come.