Former Wildcat finds calling on Broadway
UA alumnus and professional set designer has won three Tony Awards and credits his alma mater for shaping his work ethic and career in show business
Scott Pask, a University of Arizona alumnus, is a three-time Tony Award winning set designer currently working on the Broadway production of “Mean Girls.”
Pask has worked on a total of 52 Broadway productions, such as “Book of Mormon” and “The Coast of Utopia.” Originally from Yuma, he graduated from the UA with a degree in architecture and began exploring the world of theatre during his time on campus. Pask is also a recipient of an honorary doctorate degree in humane letters, which he was awarded in 2014.
“When I started exploring at the School of Theatre, Film Television, I took some classes and eventually became an assistant on a project for the head of the department and worked on the main stage production there of ‘Lemon Sky’ by Lanford Wilson,” Pask said.
With his coursework and projects in architecture, Pask began to understand how people could create meaning from the construction of space.
“I liked the idea behind the projects that I was working on,” he said. “It was about storytelling, and how people felt in those spaces became a really important thing to me. I started constructing ideas and narratives for some of my projects to infuse them with some meaning.”
After graduating from the UA, Pask moved to New York where he created an independent film and was later accepted into the Yale School of Drama, where he received a master’s degree in design.
“I just kind of went into it with the work ethic and vigor that was developed at the UA,” Pask said. “Everybody always joked about the architecture school. The lights were on at all hours, even on the weekend, and there we were, working. And we did because we loved it and the demand was high. That skill and work ethic translates really well to this business.”
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After graduating from Yale, Pask went on to work on some large scale Broadway productions and really began to make a name for himself within the industry. He recalls his first Broadway show, “Urinetown,” in 2001, which was postponed due to the 9/11 attacks in New York.
“Our opening night was supposed to be September 12, 2001,” he said. “So it was postponed and we all thought theatre was over, but we rallied and opened not even a week later I think, and it was a huge hit. Amidst that devastation, I had my Broadway debut.”
Pask said he couldn’t choose a favorite show among the ones he’s worked on, and that he loves all of the work he’s been fortunate enough to produce.
“It’s like choosing children, but there’s some that are very important to me,” he said. “‘Book of Mormon’ remains one of my most favorite shows, and I’m thrilled that it’s become such a global hit. There are other shows like ‘The Pillowman,’ which I started in London at the national theatre there and then did that on Broadway.”
After just four years working on Broadway, Pask won his first Tony Award in 2005 with “The Pillowman,” and describes it as one of the most memorable moments of his life.
“Winning a Tony Award is incredible, there’s just no way around it,” Pask said. “It’s a dream come true. I grew up in Yuma, where the idea of making a living in theatre is kind of a far-reaching dream, so to be able to achieve that, to get into Yale, to live in New York and to be working at this level is pretty amazing.”
That night, in Radio City Music Hall, surrounded by his family, Pask said he couldn’t believe it when he heard his name being called from the stage.
“I remember the first time I won was kind of like an out-of-body experience,” he said. “My mother and stepfather were there, my brother was next to me — I’m a twin — and he just punched me in the arm because I sat there when they said my name, and I didn’t get up. So, he just looked at me and punched me and said, ‘You have to go!’”
Through his work, Pask has been given the opportunity to work with some big names in the industry, including actors such as Tina Fey, Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig.
“I do sets and costumes, so I’m there to help them feel the best they can feel on stage,” Pask said. “We all approach theatre in a similar way in that we love it. We all come to it with a sort of affection for the medium. In theatre, it’s a core team of collaborators so you really get to know them and respect each other.”
Between Broadway seasons, Pask likes to take a break and visit the place where it all began: Tucson. He still owns a home in the foothills, and likes to come back every six weeks or so to unwind.
With three Tony Awards and still a long career ahead of him, Pask said he is grateful for the opportunities he’s had and for the support that he’s received from his family, friends and colleagues. After “Mean Girls,” Pask will be working on the production of “A Band’s Visit,” a musical based on an Israeli film directed by Eran Kolirin.
“I have to pinch myself every once in a while. I feel really lucky to be doing the work that I’m doing.”
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