Capitol Steps

An old Capitol Steps photograph shows current members Elaina Newport (back) and Brian Ash (front).

—Photo courtesy Capitol Steps

From the steps of Washington, D.C. to the stairs of the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, the Capitol Steps have plenty to say.

The political musical satire group will perform for their new "Orange is the New Barack" show (for the sixth time) at 2 and 8 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 13, at the center. 

Former senate staff started the group in 1981 to mock their employers. Now, the troupe includes professional actors and singers, with some still working on Capitol Hill. But most are professional, according to manager, writer and performer Mark Eaton. 

"I started in 1993 as a part-time performer... I lost my mind in 1999," Eaton said. 

1999 was when Eaton said he left his job with late Sen. Jesse Helms (R and D-N. Carolina).

"This is so much more fun," Eaton said. "It ruins you for other work."

There's always something.

"Just the lunacy on both sides," Eaton said. "There's a never-ending source of material."

The latest show continues making fun of both political parties. Additionally, the five-member troupe plus pianist shows are based on current headlines. Donald Trump, of course, is included, since he's usually tweeting or doing something, Eaton said. But, the president isn't the main component of the current show. 

"People always think, 'Oh, we're going to have a song on it that evening,'" Eaton said of a Trump news event. "It's just kind of silly and the playing field is always changing."

The show stays pretty much the same throughout a tour, Eaton said. 

"It gets difficult sometimes," Eaton said. "It can feel a little lopsided if there's the same party in both the senate and presidential office."

Eaton said he usually works in the office, writing and booking shows. But, sometimes he stands in, playing Trump in this show. He added the total 25-member group wears many hats, with co-founder Elaina Newport as the other main writer.

"The cast is always chipping in," Eaton said. "It's a group effort."

The cast varies as they have to perform simultaneously in different locations. They run through 30 different songs and skits, Eaton said. In Long Beach's show, performers include Mike Thornton, Corey Harris, Jack Rowles, Delores Williams, Ann Schmitt and pianist Dave Kane. 

"There's a tremendous amount of deception," Eaton said. "They go through quick changes... We mix and match the cast and sometimes have to be in three places at the same time." 

Newport doesn’t perform, but began writing satires in 1981, while she was a staffer for late Sen. Charles Percy (R-Ill.). She said she and others were planning entertainment for a Christmas party one year and created song parodies and skits based on recent headlines.

The parodies continued, Newport said, and she quit her day job about seven years later.

"It got painfully out of control," Eaton said of members working for politicians during the day and performing at night. 

But the group became successful, as performances continue.

"Come out and have a laugh at this stuff," Eaton said. "Because if you don't laugh, it's certainly going to make you cry."

Tickets for the Carpenter Center show start at $50.

Parking is available for $8 onsite at 6200 Atherton St.

For more information and tickets, visit carpenterarts.org or call (562) 985-7000. The box office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m Monday through Friday and one hour before performances on Saturdays and Sundays.

Emily Thornton can be reached at ethornton@gazettes.com.  

Editor's note: This has been updated to reflect the correct box office hours.

Emily is a staff writer covering higher education and other various topics for Gazette Newspapers. She has a background in weekly and daily newspapers and a bachelor’s in communication from La Sierra University.

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