NEW YORK-BASED set and costume designer Clint Ramos—born in Cebu province and a product of Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (DUP)—won the 2016 Tony Award for costume design for the play “Eclipsed,” in ceremonies at the Beacon Theater in New York.
“I just want to say thank you to everybody, to a group of women who are unbelievable,” Ramos said in his acceptance speech, referring to the playwright, director and cast of the play, who are all women. A part of his speech was shown during the broadcast.
“Eclipsed,” written by Danai Gurira and directed by Liesl Tommy, is about five women during the Second Liberian Civil War. Its lead star, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave,” “Star Wars”), was nominated for best lead actress in a play; the award went to Jessica Lange for “Long Day’s Journey into Night.”
Born and raised in Cebu, Ramos took up theater arts at the University of the Philippines, doing design work for DUP, then a master of fine arts in design for stage and film at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts on a full scholarship.
He has since designed costumes and sets for over a hundred productions in New York, across the United States and internationally.
In Manila, he created the sets of Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street” and DUP’s “Mary Stuart/Maria Stuarda,” “The Duchess of Malfi/Ang Dukesa ng Malfi” and “The Country Wife/Ang Misis Kong Promdi.”
Most of the shows he designed as a UP student were directed by [DUP founding artistic director] Tony Mabesa, “whom I consider to be a great influence in my choice to pursue a life in the theater,” Ramos said in one interview.
In an e-mail message to the Inquirer after receiving the Tony Award, he said: “So grateful and thankful, especially for the support back home from everyone in the Philippines. Thank you!”
Ramos is multiawarded. He has previously received the 2013 Obie Award for sustained excellence of costume design; the 2014 Lucille Lortel Award for outstanding costume design for his work on “Here Lies Love,” a musical about Imelda Marcos; and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ 2014 Ani ng Dangal Award for dramatic arts, among others.
His work in “Eclipsed” has been described by critics as “meticulously detailed” (Variety), “evocative” (Hollywood Reporter), “[takes] much research, labor and talent to pull off,” (Vanityfair.com) and “essential” (Vogue.com).
In an Instagram post, Ramos wrote about his nomination: “Work like this is valid. That design dealing with contemporary themes is worthy of rewarding. That powerful, modern costumes are just as complex as the pretty period ones.”
Ramos’ costumes combined traditional African fabrics like lapa, woven cotton cloth with colorful patterns and T-shirts emblazoned with American pop-culture images, such as a shirt with Rugrats cartoon characters for Nyong’o (to show that Liberia is a repository for American discards). Some characters were given brand-name footwear to show status.
He researched photographs of the war and sourced shirts and fabrics from vintage clothing shops and African merchandise stores in New York. Copies of ready-to-wear tops and bottoms that were chosen for the production were recreated from scratch: Shirts were silk-screened and jeans were tailored to accommodate being used multiple shows a week and for different cast members.
The costumes were then distressed, treated with dyes to mimic sweat or blood stains that could not be washed off when the costumes were laundered.
His other credits include costume designs for the Broadway production of “The Elephant Man” featuring Bradley Cooper and the Off-Broadway staging of “Here Lies Love.” Both these productions were also staged on the West End.
Other Filipino winners
Filipinos who have won the Tony include Lea Salonga, who was adjudged the 1991 best actress in a musical for playing the titular character in “Miss Saigon.”
Iloilo-born Jhett Tolentino, an investing producer with business partner Joan Raffe, has also received Tonys for best revival of a play for “A Raisin in the Sun” and best musical for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” both 2014, and best play for “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” 2013. Investors to Broadway productions receive awards along with lead producers if productions win best play or musical.
Composer Robert Lopez, winner of the 2004 best original score award for “Avenue Q,” is of partial Filipino descent; his paternal grandfather is Filipino and his paternal grandmother is Filipino-Scottish American.
The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre honors theater professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway. It was founded by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, after whose cofounder the award is named.