Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 14, 2018

INTERVIEW: One-on-One with Capitol Steps’ co-founder Elaina Newport

by Shera Cohen

If you’ve seen Capitol Steps, you need to see it again, and again. Just as the news constantly changes, so must the skits in this extremely popular, political lampooning of who’s who, all set to music. The performances are satire with a capital “S”. The phrase, “ripped from today’s headlines” describes Capitol Steps’ ever-changing and hilarious material.

Elaina Newport, back row, middle
Who is behind the shenanigans in creating Capitol Steps? Mark Eaton and Elaina Newport. Elaina credits her brother and his stash of “Mad Magazine” as her impetus to become co-founder of Capitol Steps. In a recent interview with Elaina, her sense of humor is both effusive and contagious.

The year was 1981, Republicans held the reigns and Reagan was president. It was a different time, but not a different place – Capitol Hill, Washington, DC. Elaina and a small group of friends were asked to write a few scripts and songs for a Christmas party. The event was fun, and a one-shot gig. The audience was bipartisan, and for the most part, got along.

“We kept getting invited to parties,” said Elaina, realizing that lampooning politicians and other front-page personalities could quickly get her and her troupe into a lot of trouble. “The more we were hired, the more [our show] spread the risk around.” In other words, the group was democratic in lambasting just about everyone, yet always with wit and a smile. No one was sacred.

Sooner than she ever anticipated, Elaina gave up her day job to become a full-time writer, producer, singer, comedian, lyricist, and manager of what became titled Capitol Steps. Along with partner, Mark Eaton (whose job description mirrors Elaina’s), the seriously ridiculous Capitol Steps has spread its political humor across the U.S. for over 35 years.

Elaina’s favorite roles include Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Angelina Merkle, and Hilary Clinton. In any given show, the cast of five plus pianist perform approximately 30 songs and become 60 characters, all in 90-minutes. A crew of one helps the quintet quickly change costumes for this fast-paced entertainment.  “Our wig person is the star of the show; there are at least three Trump wigs,” said Elaina. Oftentimes, costumes and headwear are ill fitting or crooked, which unintentionally adds to the fun.

When asked about the audition process, Elaina immediately reacted, laughing. “That’s one of the fun parts [of this job]. They sing a song beautifully, then we ask them to sing the same song as if he/she was Kim Jong-un.”

“Our audiences are fully prepared for this humor,” she said. They come expecting to hear parodies and see caricatures, and that’s exactly what they get. With politics at the top of every news report and above the fold on newspapers, the humor of Capitol Steps is more apropos than ever.

What role would Elaina like to play? President! Not anyone whose name we know, but the first female president. After a few decades backstage and onstage for Capitol Steps, she still loves the fun. “But, if the [current] Congress got quickly competent, then we would be out of a job, but we’ll be okay.”

Capitol Steps will be performed at Cranwell Resort, Lenox, MA from June 30 – September 1, 2018, nightly except Tuesdays. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO AND RESERVATIONS