From UA to Broadway

Scott Pask's work evolves from sketch...
March 30, 2012

Creating the sets and stages for some of Broadway’s biggest shows has been a lifelong journey for Scott Pask. But before he won Tony awards or worked on projects like The Book of Mormon, HAIR, and Little Shop of Horrors or worked with David Mamet, Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman, and Stockard Channing, he began his journey at the University of Arizona by studying architecture.

So, how did this Yuma, Arizona native and UA grad make it all the way to the top of Broadway? Let’s talk to him.

Your work on The Book of Mormon won a Tony for Best Scenic Design of a Musical. What has that experience been like?

The Tony win is still sinking in! I received the freshly engraved trophy – you return the one you carry around all night – and it now sits next to the previous two on my desk. To be honest the previous two still continue to sink in as well! [Ed. note: Pask previously won Tony Awards for Best Scenic Design of a Play for The Coast of Utopia and The Pillowman] And to see them is quite humbling for a guy who grew up in the great small town of Yuma.

How did your time at the UA translate to what you do now?

Studying at the UA was special. The College of Architecture was so esteemed, and intense, and those hours spent in the studio, collaborating with other students, or simply sharing the late night hours was fantastic preparation for the theater as well ... We work intense, and long hours, and much of it in darkened rooms, and at night, when we are actually putting the shows together. The ability for me to visit the College of Fine Arts and to have them welcome my interest, and allow me to study with them while I continued to pursue my degree in architecture was also incredibly helpful, and gave me great insight towards what I hoped to make my future career.

Did you always know that you wanted to design sets?

I didn’t. I love drawing, and always have. I gravitated to drawing houses and spaces ... so it was that instinct that led me to architecture school. Within the program, I was most drawn to creating spaces that were influenced or driven by narrative structures, stories, histories ... and I enjoyed performance ... seeing theater, concerts, and sharing the room with others as everyone watched a special event. After putting that all together, I visited the School of Theatre, Film and Television, and met with the head of the set design course, and discussed my interests and goals. I eventually took two semesters of the scenic design course, and assisted him on a main stage production. That was hugely influential in my pursuit of a career in the arts, and theater specifically. I came to New York City upon graduation, where I began to work in downtown theater, and independent film.

What are some of your favorite UA memories?

I have many favorite memories. Time spent on the mall, biking, going to games, enjoying the setting of Tucson – the sky and horizon are still influential and serve to refuel when I am there – and spending a lot of time at the art galleries and museums, and loving being immersed in the intense architectural degree program. A particular installation of James Turrell's at the university art museum was hugely influential, and I still think of it often. I made great friends at the University, and have many new friends from alumni gatherings. The University of Arizona is a great and supportive family to be a part of, and I have always had immense pride in my education, of the school, and my experience there.