REF to present hilarious evening of bipartisan political satire

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL 

If you failed to score a pair of tickets to last year’s “sold out” Rockford Education Foundation (REF) annual benefit performance, now is the time to act!

In seeking to one-up last year’s hugely successful appearance of Second City, the REF has booked The Capitol Steps for its 15th annual benefit performance.

Formed in December 1981 by a group of congressional staffers, The Capitol Steps, a bipartisan ensemble troupe, specializes in current cutting-edge political satire. The group, whose claim to fame is that they put “the mock in democracy,” happily slams both sides of the political aisle.

Years later the group, which has grown from seven performers to 25, annually puts on 700 shows across the country. Thousands have taken in their regular Friday and Saturday night shows at the 600-seat Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Amphitheater in Washington, D.C.

“The Capitol Steps was an easy choice this year,” said REF Administrator Sue Arend. “With dysfunctional governance and politics on all sides, we might as well laugh rather than cry. We are already taking ticket requests from people who have seen Capitol Steps elsewhere and can’t wait for another visit with the Steps.”

We have all watched Saturday Night Live, and many tune into Comedy Central for the Daily Show and the Colbert Show. But, unlike the former, the actors and actresses of The Capitol Steps “sing” their satire to the tunes older crowds have come to love.

The Capitol Steps’ performer and co-writer Mark Eaton joined the group in 1993. Formerly, he worked on the Hill for 10 years before becoming a lobbyist.

“We are currently taking shots in anything in the headlines,” Eaton said. “People love to laugh at the rich and powerful; they are the best targets for satire. It makes us all feel a bit better to knock a politician or public figure down a few pegs.”

Tickets for a visit to The Capitol Steps would make great stocking stuffers, but with ticket sales expected to be brisk, you’d better act fast!

Since 1991, the REF has quietly pursued their mission of raising funds that are then granted to community members for programs that meet the area’s education needs. To name some of many, the REF has funded senior citizen programs, the library, the Rockford Area Arts Commission, and grants for teachers and students. In total, the REF has awarded over $860,000 in grants to Rockford. The annual REF benefit performances are an important part of the raising of these funds.

“In large part, the generous financial support of Wolverine World Wide and United Bank in benevolently underwriting the annual benefit performances is greatly appreciated,” said Arend.

The Capitol Steps will play well to the sophisticated Rockford audience. They do not use any profanity in their routines. However, according to the scandal of the day, some songs/subjects/routines may include “suggested innuendo.” Would this go over the heads of most children? Maybe, maybe not—you be the judge.

Tickets (reserved seating) for the single 8 p.m. performance on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011, at the Rockford High School Fine Arts Auditorium are $35. Contact the REF office at (616) 863-6317 or visit their website at

www.rockfordschools.org/ref.

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