Filipinos have long made their mark in the theater scene abroad, from the likes of Lea Salonga to Rachelle Ann Go. But did you know that it’s not just our talented actors who’ve been changing the game internationally?
While it’s the thespians who get to take the final bow onstage to bright lights and roaring applause, the other stars of the show—a.k.a. the staff and crew hustling hard behind the scenes—deserve the spotlight, too. In particular, a notable name to remember is Clint Ramos, a Tony Award-winning costume and set designer who was born and raised in Cebu, Philippines.
Fun fact: He’s actually good friends with fellow theatre regular Lea Salonga!
If you haven’t heard of him yet, then you should know that Clint’s most recent achievements include two Tony Award nominations this 2021; one for Best Scenic Design and one for Best Costume Design for the Broadway shows Slave Play and The Rose Tattoo, respectively. In fact, Clint’s introspective mirror set for the former is arguably the “Most Talked About Set on Broadway” this season, according to Town and Country.
“It feels bittersweet,” Clint told Broadway World when asked about his reaction to this impressive dual feat. “I’m deeply honored and deeply grateful, but it also is happening during a theatrical season that was interrupted and during a future that's unknown. More than anything, what I feel so strongly about is we're taking the time to actually talk about the work in a very meaningful way, and it's been great listening to folks talk about the work that they've done in the past season. I'm filled with gratitude but it's bittersweet.”
Clint is an alumnus of Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas. After graduating, he eventually flew to the United States and took up a master’s degree in fine arts at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. A decorated designer with a prolific track record of over a hundred projects, both in the Philippines and abroad, he’s best known for his work in the 2016 Broadway play, Eclipsed, which starred Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o. The play, by Danai Gurira, chronicles the trials of five Liberian women struggling to survive near the end of the Second Liberian Civil War.
Eclipsed itself bagged five nominations at the 70th Tony Awards, but only took home one trophy in the end; that being the accolade for Best Costume Design, which was awarded, of course, to none other than the Filipino-American designer. Clint's win was a history-making one, mind you, as he was the first ever person of color to win in that specific category.
During his acceptance speech, he first thanked his Filipino mother who traveled from the Philippines for the awards show. “That’s the woman to blame!” he mused. “The theater has been my savior in the darkest times of my life and I hope that the people of Orlando can see some salvation through this really dark time,” Clint continued, referring to the devastating shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando which occurred that same day.
Watch his winning moment below.
Clint is the type of artist to advocate for social issues, and it undeniably shows in his work. After all, his passion for his chosen craft stemmed from immersing himself in street theater in the Philippines, which were back then staged to protest the Marcos regime. “I saw the power that it could do. I still remember very vividly,” he once told ABC News. “Part of what I’ve learned is that there are just things that I cannot possibly see. And then there are things that I see that other people don’t…So, for me, it’s been sort of a spiritual journey learning that.”
That said, Clint is currently most vocal about racial equity and gender equality in the theatre industry, especially when it comes to giving representation to biracial, indigenous, and people of color backstage. “Just by the nature of what we do, and what actors do, and the performers do, there is an imbalance in visibility,” said Clint in his interview with Broadway World. “If you look at the numbers…91% of the folks who design on Broadway were white. And that is so much worse than the actors. Their numbers are not great, but it's not as bad as the designers. We need to keep talking about it and not shy away from it.”
For 2021, you can expect to see the award-winning Fil-Am designer’s handiwork showcased through the costumes of the upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect.