We had the good fortune of connecting with Leah Ramillano and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leah, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I’ve always steered toward artistic and creative hobbies, like drawing, sculpture, poetry, etc–but I grew up within a culture that revered it, but didn’t entirely see it as a career choice, so I pretty much continued doing artistic things without any real purpose of pursuing it. In retrospect, floating around doing what you love but not believing that you should be kept me in a sort of internal limbo. I had no idea what I really wanted to do and I could never picture my life in the future, and when you can’t picture (or plan) your future, you generally feel really stuck accomplishing short-term goals for short-lived gratification. For some reason, I could never see myself beyond 18 years old. Then, in college at the University of Redlands, I found set design and theatre classes that fit into my schedule, so I figured, “Why not?” Around 2 weeks into my college experience, my dad unexpectedly passed. During this time, I found so much healing in theatre and collaboration with people in my classes that I was becoming close friends with. I was part of a loving community that let me heal at my own pace, while we all created story-telling art together. It was the first time I was shown that art was not just meant to be hobby–art could be career, art could be purpose, art could be lifestyle. For the first time, I was able to see some sort of trajectory of my life that I was never able to before, and because of that, I could not allow myself to ignore the rumbling in my pit of my stomach that was telling me to not be afraid to do what I loved.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Outside of my corporate work as a CAD drafter, I am a Scenic Designer and I take the most pride in communication and team collaboration to create the best storytelling. I get excited for stories about social justice, work with poetic dialogue, theatre for young audiences, and a solid creative team. I took up a general theatre degree with an emphasis in design in undergrad, and then went on to work as an assistant in the scenic art shop at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The following summer, I worked in the scenic art shop at PCPA Theatrefest, and then attended the University fo California, Irvine for grad school. The first part of my career was just fighting with myself to not be afraid to just go for it. After that, it was learning and creating my voice as an artist in the room, which can be difficult between being a woman of color where oftentimes, it feels like my voice gets drowned out. I’ve learned to always be honest and dig deep into the story, and my voice gets more robust and confident through the process. Sometimes, I rely on my friends in the industry for brainstorming and talking through ideas, so I’m not just going in circles with myself. I’ve learned to never me afraid to ask for help and that it’s better to say that you don’t know something rather than faking it. I want the world to know that my ultimate goal in every project is to work as a team to tell the best story. I also value paying it forward by doing my best to also offer mentorship and collaboration to others, just as my mentors have graciously given me their time and wealth of knowledge through the years
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The Last Bookstore for sure! It’s such an incredible gem. I love California Market (also labeled as California Marketplace) in K-Town. It’s got an awesome Korean grocery store on the first floor, shops on the second, and an outdoor food court on the roof/top floor. Yellowhouse Cafe is a really sweet spot that is pretty much all outdoor dining in a garden patio – with twinkly lights at night, so it’s a wonderful date spot. Also, they have outlets all over, so I even recommend studying or working there. I’ve definitely spent several hours drafting a show while sipping on their teas/coffees. Barnsdall Park is another favorite little place overlooking the city. For tacos, I’ve some what recently fallen in love with the Al Pastor at Angel’s Tijuana Tacos. My partner loves driving so sometime we’ll just go on long drives from Hollywood to Palos Verdes, sometimes we’ll even double back and head up to Malibu. If you find yourself down in the South Bay, I HIGHLY recommend the fish tacos at Ensenada’s Surf N Turf Grill. And honestly, I grew up going to Universal Studios, so I can’t wait for things to safely reopen to revisit. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Many, MANY thanks to Trevor Norton, Steve Shade, Nephelie Andonyadis, Cliff Faulkner, Michael Ganio, Gabriel Barrera and everyone else at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Abby Hogan and everyone else at PCPA Theaterfest, and everyone I’ve ever collaborated with and learned from at the University of Redlands and University of California, Irvine. Endless friends and family who have come out to see my work. My dearest pops in heaven, and my mother who has supported me throughout, even through disagreements; and Nanay Conching who made sure that everyone was always fed.
Paul R. Kennedy