A Closer Look at Capitol Steps with Producer Elaina Newport

Capitol Steps returns to Cranwell for another year of must-see performances. Each show is packed with laugh-out-loud humor that will leave you wanting more! We recently sat down with Elaina Newport of Capitol Steps to learn more about this hilarious political satire.

1.  How did the Capitol Steps get started?
We started, back in 1981, as entertainment for a Senate Office Christmas party. We decided to make fun of our bosses – I know, not very bright, looking back, but seemed like a good idea at the time!

You may have heard the story – we briefly considered staging a traditional nativity play, but throughout the Congress we couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin.

We thought that we’d do just this one party, but since much to our surprise, no one fired us for doing this or even asked us to stop, so we’re now in our 32nd  year.

2.  What were some of the songs at that first show?

It was the early days of Reagan, so it was a fun time for satire.  The first show had James Watt singing “Mine Every Mountain,” and Ed Meese in “The Meeseketeers,” and a song about big defense spending, “Immense Expense is Mainly in Defense.”  And of course, there was the perception that Reagan didn’t exactly work all that hard, so we had a song “Workin’ Nine to Ten.” 

3.  Are most of the Steps really former Congressional Staffers?

For the first fifteen years of our existence, we had a strict rule that every performer had to have Capitol Hill work experience.  Then, in 1996, when we got far to busy for our own good, we relaxed that rule and added some local Washington-area performers.  But it’s still our roots – at last count, members of the troupe had worked for fifteen Senators or Members of the House.

4.  Do the politicians ever get mad?

Over the years, we’ve been pleasantly surprised at what good sports the politicians have been.  We’ve performed for five Presidents (six if you count Hillary), and the only complaint we can remember is from Senator D’Amato of New York, and his gripe was that we DIDN’T have a song about him!

5.  How do you write the stuff?

Picking the right song is essential (and a rhyming dictionary really helps!).  That’s why we love politicians named “Kerry” or “McCain.”  And sometimes, even international incidents make good puns, like “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Crimea?”

Also, you can get a good laugh if you get a good pun that really hits both the feel of the original and the feel of the subject you’re covering.  For example, when we were thinking of Hillary and Barack working together, it reminded us of “Ebony and Ivory” but we gave it a little twist and it became “Ebony and Ovaries.”

6.  How would you describe your show to someone who hasn’t seen it?

We’re hitting all the major stories and political figures in the news, both on the right and the left, and updating constantly, setting headlines to songs.  If you’ve ever wanted to see Barack Obama sing a show tune, Joe Biden sing a rock song, and Chris Christie do a classical ballet, this is the show to see!

8.  Do you ever run into a dry spell?

When we first started out, we were concerned, and it went something like this – “What if all the politicians get quietly competent and solve all the problems?”  We worried about that for about five minutes.

So they always come through.  But actually, it is an odd way to make a living, because you don’t listen to the news like a normal person.  If something happens, you don’t think, “is it good for the country,” but more “is it funny, and what rhymes with it?”

9.  So the juiciest stuff must have been when Clinton was president?

Well, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but as good as Monica and Bill were for satire, it was almost like at that point, comedians were redundant.  You could pick up the paper and laugh.  Now, dealing with wars and economic problems – it’s tougher – but probably more important – to do what we do.

10.  How long have you been performing at Cranwell, and how do you like performing in the Berkshires?

We did our first run at Cranwell in 2007, and the cast absolutely loves performing there.  It’s a beautiful resort, and the audiences are the best (don’t tell the other audiences!) – we get folks from all over New England and New York…and beyond!  So, we may throw in the occasional Massachusetts reference, but we don’t change the show – it still hits all the major national headlines.

11.  What if someone has seen the show before…will it be different this year?

Yes, there will be lots of new material!  We have a whole new album since we were at Cranwell last summer.  It’s called “How to Succeed in Congress without Really Lying.”  And we’re pleased to report that the past year has been full of political scandals!  So, the show is changing all the time.  If something big happens in the headlines, come right to our show and find out what rhymes with it.

Ticket Information:
Performances July 4 through August 31, 2014
Shows nightly at 8 pm, excluding Tuesdays
Show duration: 90 minutes
Tickets:  $45 per person, open seating
Box Office: 413-881-1636 or purchase tickets on line.
capsteps@cranwell.com

Check out the video below for a small sampling of the night of laughter that awaits you!