“There is nothing I hate more than when design is mystified,” Ost said. “I truly believe everyone [can be] a designer … and so when someone comes to me with a degree that has nothing to do with theatre and starts working and communicating as if they were in a real design meeting — that is the most satisfying and exciting thing for me.”
Ost, however, has not always been such an experienced designer. Like many of his students, he sought a liberal arts education before fully engaging in the technical theatre industry. After one year of a technical theatre-intensive undergraduate program at NYU, Ost decided to transfer to one that would allow him much more exploration; in the next few years, he studied abroad in Japan, directed, and majored in art history as well as theatre.
“For theatre, you need life experience that will fortify your work and allow you to tell authentic stories,” he said. “So, teaching at a specific liberal arts school [like Hamilton], one that is small enough that I can help foment ideas in the same way professors did for me, is something very important and valuable to me.”
Apart from teaching, Ost has also had a breadth of illustrious experience in the professional scenic design industry. He has done everything from convert a Long Island neighborhood into a set of 1920s Glendale, Calif. (for his work on HBO’s Mildred Pierce), to receive a Tony nomination for his design of the set for Disney’s Newsies.
Recognition aside, Ost says it’s the process leading up to opening night that brings him the most satisfaction. He cites the musical Bonnie and Clyde as his favorite. “It was three-and-a-half years of working with a team and actors,” he said. “We really became a family, and so that’s what I love the most — those relationships that you build along the way working on these productions.”
Ost’s other role at Hamilton involves designing the set for each mainstage production, a process that includes students. This semester, he is working on Concord Floral with Sofia Isabel Gonzalez Alvarado ’26, who intends to double major in studio art and art history. Alvarado never thought she’d be involved in theatre until she took a class with Ost. A year later, she is serving as his assistant designer. “He’s very approachable,” she said. “I can be completely clear with him about where my gaps in knowledge are, and he’ll be very willing to answer them.”
Although relatively new to Hamilton, Ost has already become central to the Theatre Department where he’s creating a place for connections, the sharing of ideas, and the development of technical skills. “Working with Tobin over the past few semesters has given me an appreciation for design and aesthetics not only on stage but everywhere,” said his teaching assistant Maggie Marks ’25.