For nearly 70 years, nonprofit regional theater Arena Stage has masterfully conveyed the U.S. spirit on stage, and its Gold Standard Musical this fall is no exception. “Anything Goes” is a classic full of mischief and amusement. This lively show would not be complete without its iconic tap dancing, and one of its tappers happens to have attended Georgetown.
Mickey Orange (GRD ’18) sings and tap-dances as a member of the ensemble in “Anything Goes,” showcasing his diverse performing range. His education also reaches beyond the stage: Orange graduated from Georgetown University’s master’s program in biohazardous threat agents and emerging infectious diseases. Orange spoke to The Hoya about his time at Georgetown, his experience working at Arena Stage and the importance of theater in education.
What were you involved with during your time at Georgetown?
It wasn’t specifically at Georgetown, but while I was in school, I did a show out in Lorton, Va., which is about 20 minutes from campus. It was at the Workhouse Arts Center. I would also drive back to Pittsburgh sometimes because I’m part of a jazz band there, Glass City Swing Band. They’re a nonprofit organization that supports disabilities awareness and preserves history through the use of a nostalgic 18-piece group playing music of the 1930s and 1940s. Over time, I found that I liked to audition for organizations that use musical education programs to enhance the lives of children and adults as well.
This is your Arena Stage debut. What has it been like working there?
I could not be more honored to now be a part of the Arena community. It was a little intimidating at first, because Arena has this series of firsts that’s unmatched in our country: They were the first theater to take a play behind the Iron Curtain, they were the first theater to have an endowment, they were the first theater to be racially integrated in [Washington,] D.C., first theater to have a production go to Broadway, and they were the first theater to receive the Regional Tony Award. The bar is set pretty high here, and it’s a lot of expectations to live up to but definitely a blessing to work with the people here, both the creative team and the cast.
It sounds like it has been a really great experience there, and “Anything Goes” is such a fun show. What would you say makes the Arena Stage production unique?
Rather than use my own words, I will actually address what [artistic director] Molly [Smith] discussed with us during the first week of rehearsals. She talked about how America is in an “anything goes” moment, and you can be anything you want to be and fool most people in the process. Although this musical was written in the 1930s, this production is unique because the cast is representative of America right now. Molly’s indomitable attitude has coalesced into a day-to-day ideology of a multicultural arts platform that is revolutionizing American theater. And you will definitely see that in this production of “Anything Goes.” It should stir people, it should get them talking, and it should inspire them to think and feel in new directions. Expect to experience the best and wildest tap dancing you’ve ever seen [on] the Fichandler Stage, as well as a string of brilliant comics singing their hearts out in classic Cole Porter style. Arena Stage will bring this classical musical into the current moment.
I want to pivot back to Georgetown for a moment. How did your time here help you get to where you are today?
I always love comparing the liberal arts education to the theater arts. I think there’s a symbiosis between the two. Over time, I found that the relationship between my Georgetown education and my background as an actor was pretty mutualistic, and both have benefitted from the other in one form or another. Georgetown’s liberal arts education and mission [have] strengthened my intellectual, ethical and spiritual understanding of the world around me. By educating the whole person through exposure to different faiths, cultures and beliefs, I have found that philosophy supports these invaluable life skills that the performing arts spectrum looks to instill [in] children, teens and adults alike.
Likewise, the creation and attending of theater contributes to both education and literacy. I think it’s pretty important at an early age to expose kids to theater. Watching characters converse requires sharp attention, quick mental shifts and nimble language skills. I really encourage school districts that cut funding from the arts to reconsider and take heed to the advice of its teachers and students. To the parents out there: If your kid likes being a part of both worlds like I was, don’t force them to choose between the arts or science. Encourage them to participate in both. It will only help improve their professional skills down the line.
Do you have any advice for young people who want to pursue a career in theater?
If you want to pursue a career in theater, surround yourself with productions that are diverse and innovative. Theaters today cast triple-threat performers, meaning you have to be able to act, sing and dance all together now to a high standard. My advice would be to set the bar for yourself and actually become a quadruple threat. For a show like “Anything Goes,” I would say that means being a good actor, singer, dancer and a comic. I found that additional skills can open unexpected doors. When you go into an audition, don’t psyche yourself out by watching the hundreds of others there as well. Take a deep breath, be yourself and show that you are passionate, exuberant, profound, deep, dangerous and, most of all, that you’re having a great time. And to all the young boys out there in dance class: Tights, ballet slippers and tap shoes might not be cool now, but trust me, it will be worth it in the end.
“Anything Goes” is showing from Nov. 2 to Dec. 23, 2018, at Arena Stage. The original book was written by P.G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, and this production is using a new book written by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman. Tickets will range from $51 to $105. For more information, visit www.arenastage.org.