As audiences walk into the Circle in the Square Theatre for the current revival of Once On This Island, they immediately step onto the titular island. Tony-nominated director Michael Arden wanted to ground the mythical story of Ti Moune and the gods in the reality of Haiti, the origin of the fable. And so Arden’s design team, including Tony-nominated costume designer Clint Ramos and Tony-nominated scenic designer Dane Laffrey, had their work cut out for them.
But what was their first task when conceptualizing their overall design? “The main job of the costumes was to portray the people of Haiti, our storytellers, honorably,” says Ramos in the video above. “It also laid out the groundwork of what we can do when we go into the the fantasy because we start in a very humble place, then we can go to a very extravagant place and in a very unique way by using all these unconventional materials.”
“In a way, the environment is another character in the show,” Laffrey adds. “It’s the first one you meet and it’s the one that’s always present, and I think the responsibility that creates for me as a designer is a big one. It means every detail of the world ... has to be telling the right story and be honest and truthful and convey the world that we want the audience to viscerally feel and understand when they watch the show.”