Thirty years ago, the Capitol Steps began as a group of Senate staffers who set out to satirize the very people and places that employed them.
In fact, according to Elaina Newport, one of the group’s three co-founders still actively involved in all the funny business today, their very name stems from the place where South Carolina Congressman John Jenrette and his wife Rita chose to show their physical affection for each other in a widely publicized 1981 scandal.
Although the Capitol Steps is based in Washington, D.C., most of its shows are out-of-town or for out-of-town audiences. The group is getting ready to put down its puns and parodies at the Sellersville Theater on Saturday, Sept. 24.
“”We have a fairly large pool of performers,” said Newport. “Only about six performers are involved in any one show. But with some thirty songs in each show, each performer has to be very versatile and handle many of the characters we are satirizing.”
And the costumes the performers wear are exaggerated as well, she continued, “as are the facial features. For instance, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t move her face at all. And Michele Bachmann wears much too much makeup. We really enjoy the broad characterizations that we do.”
And they better enjoy it. Years ago, when Capitol Steps was first formed, the group, made up of congressional staffers, took a huge leap of faith.
“When we did our first show, we thought they’d either ask us to stop or fire us. But here we are, years later, still going strong,” said Newport. “And now, most of the politicians love our work and when we make fun of them. Today, I think making fun of politicians and politics provides us the only safe jobs in the whole world.”
Most of the cast members have worked on Capitol Hill; some for Democrats, some for Republicans. And others have worked for politicians who firmly straddle the fence. But no matter who holds office, Newport insisted, “there’s never a shortage of material. Typically the Republicans goof up, and then the Democrats goof up. That’s what we call the two-party system, and we’re here to hold them both up to the public.”
The material is updated constantly, and Newport thinks that’s one of the reasons the Capitol Steps remains so popular. “We try to stay current, responding to scandals and everything else that happens in our country as quickly as possible,” she said.
Current examples include the Tea Party’s colorful invasion into the political spectrum with Fun Fun Fun ’til Obama Takes Our Tea Bags Away. And the Democrats’ plan to defeat the deficit with Return to Spenders.
“Right now we’re rooting for a Sarah Palin/Michele Bachmann ticket with a song set to the music of Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart, but with our version it’s Don’t Go Thinkin’ You’re Smart.
The Capitol Steps has a new CD out titled Desperate Housemembers, featuring 22 songs, like Loonies of the Right set to Music of the Night, and Put Your Cans in the Hands about the Transportation Security Administration, and many more.
“I think one of the best things about this job is that when a scandal breaks we’re able to walk out onstage that very night and have fun with it. The audience connects with us right away. It’s stressful, but that’s the big payoff. The audience gives you points just because you’ve done something new and exciting right as it’s happening,” Newport said. ••
For times and ticket information, call 215-257-5808.