The political variety show Over the Lege is returning to the Institution Theater for a second season this September. It's the creation of Stephanie Chiarello Noppenberg, who pulled from her two diverse areas of expertise to develop the show.
"I have worked at the legistlature for six sessions now... in both the House and the Senate," she says. "And you stay up really late at night watching these committee hearings, and you're like, Did they just say that... or do that?' And the answer is 'Yes, and people aren't paying attention.'"
Wanting to bring more attention to the goings-on in the Texas Legislature, Chiarello Noppenberg fell back on her theater and dance training to create a comedic variety show focusing on the lege. Cole Noppenberg, her husband, was quickly enlisted to help. "Stephanie's been talking about doing a show like this about as long as I've known her," he says.
Hoping to draw as large a crowd as possible, Chiarello Noppenberg says with a laugh, "I used every piece of political capital I had. So I had Senator Wendy Davis as a guest, and Senator Kirk Watson, and a slew of other guests."
This season, titled Over the Lege -- Part 2: The Governor Strikes Back, will also feature special guests in every show, including Representative Donna Howard (on opening night), Representative Eddie Rodriguez, author Sarah Bird, and a returning Senator Kirk Watson. While it might seem tempting in the political world of 2017 to expand the show to include national events and figures, the crew has made it a point to keep the focus tightly on the Texas Legislature. "Part of the mission has been to educate people on what's going on here," says Noppenberg.
"Yeah, I wanted to stay Texas Legislature specific," says Chiarello Noppenberg. "Because it's really important to me that people know who their state senators are, who their leadership is here, and that they're so accessible."
Writer and performer Nicole Beckley has been pleased to see political junkies and comedy fans alike coming out the shows. "It's been really interesting to have a big mix of... people who are super-knowlegable about what's happening in Texas politicas and politics in general and then people who are just comedy and improv and sketch fans," she says.