Tony-winner Clint Ramos understands the importance of design in a Broadway show. He knows that the visuals inform a story just as much as the dialogue. His work is particularly informative in the current revival of Once On This Island, which uses “trash” materials to reflect modern day Hurricane-ravaged cultures. We spoke to Clint about his design process and where his love of theater began.
What sparked your interest in costume and scenic design?
I was involved in the theater since I was young. I started in political theater in the Philippines where I grew up. I originally wanted to be a director, but I didn’t think I had that thing in me where I could actually convince actors of a vision. I just didn’t think I was socially communicative that way. But I was very interested in creating the world and figuring out what the inhabitants of that world looked like, and that sort of led me to scenic and costume design. You know, over the years I feel like I actually made the right choice. I have so much agency in controlling what the audience sees and ultimately what the audience takes away from the show.
Can you remember the first show you saw in which the costumes or set left a memorable impression?
The first show I saw was a tour company of Oliver! The Musical and I was hooked. I think I was like nine or ten. It had passed through the city where I lived and I was so enamored by it. I never experienced anything like it. I didn’t know something like that existed. I was just enthralled.
When approaching a new project, what is the collaboration process like and what is your process?
It’s really exciting, you get to be in a room with really smart people and you really are creating a world, conjuring up a world. You all read the play, you all heard the musical, and you all sort of have this one vision to make this awesome thing come alive. What’s exciting about that thing is how you and the other collaborators can harness each of your own interpretations or visions and make them into one breathing thing, one solid vision, because you come at it from different points of view and from different angles. Ultimately there is one message that you want to send and it’s magical and it’s terrific when that happens, when all of these minds can get together to create one thing that’s bigger than all of us.
Once On This Island incorporates a lot of “found objects” into its design. What was your inspiration for this design choice?
The inspiration was looking at those photographs of Haiti and the Caribbean after the hurricane. After a hurricane with so much objects and garbage that was strewn around by the storm, and that inspired us to create this world out of those found objects.