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Inside the Plays Nominated for Best Scenic Design at the Tony Awards

Inside the Plays Nominated for Best Scenic Design at the Tony Awards

Set and costume designer Clint Ramos incorporated the alternating visions of director Robert O’Hara and writer Jeremy O. Harris. “Robert wanted intimacy in a colosseum style ‘in the round’ while Jeremy wanted illusion, allowing the audience to walk in and be transplanted to the deep South,” he tells AD. “The concept is always tricky when you deal with race issues, particularly explosive ones that are unblinking in terms of social critique.”

Acting as a self-professed “historian/scientist,” the Tony-Award winning designer researched the films Gone with the Wind and 12 Years a Slave and did a deep dive into southern plantation architecture as well as photos and illustrations from the period. Ramos illuminates the theater with the MacGregor House exterior on a lightbox that hovers above the audience, so they feel they are part of the setting. He also employed mirrors to create an intimate space that serves as a metaphor requiring the audience to really look at themselves. “The mirrors remind them of this ghost of the racial inequities of this country as we really don’t talk about race relations. It’s a metaphor for reckoning.” The three acts also included the sets of an antebellum bedroom complete with a lace canopy four-poster bed, a cotton field set, a group therapy room, and a hotel room.

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Jagged Little Pill

Scenic Designers: Riccardo Hernández 

Projection Designer: Lucy MacKinnon

“The premise [of this set] was how we could take the notion of the American home and deconstruct it as the family is breaking apart and then put it all back together,” scenic designer Riccardo Hernández tells AD.

Photo: Matthew Murphy

Inspired by Alanis Morissette’s 1995 Grammy Award-winning album Jagged Little Pill, the Broadway musical sensation tells the tale of the perils of suburban anxiety. Focusing on the wealthy Healy family and set in suburban Connecticut, it’s an American saga of a workaholic husband, pill-popping mother, their two sons (one Harvard bound), and adopted daughter.

Scenic designer Riccardo Hernández (who is also an assistant professor at the Yale School of Drama) began by sending images to the play’s director Diane Paulus of “McMansions in Connecticut that looked like architecture on steroids.” Inspired by the work of painter and graphic artist Robert Rauschenberg, the designer created sets that were constantly in motion, with sliding glass panels. He created four theatrical spaces at the Broadhurst Theater that ranged from a 90s American home in all its glorified excess to a set that speaks volumes as a black void.

And since the play falls into the jukebox musical genre, lighting and video projection are vital to the overall design scheme. Projection designer Lucy MacKinnon used realistic photo projections to create a backdrop that established the play’s locations. “We were trying to create emotional undertones as there is anger in the music, sadness, longing, and regret, so we created a chaotic effect through the images,” she says.

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