Photography by Trevor Smith

Scott Pask

Scenic Designer

| East Village

Take just a step inside Scott Pask’s downtown abode and one thing is clear: the man knows how to set a stage. Amidst white oak herringbone floors and limited, albeit meaningful objets, it’s as if you’ve just landed inside a real-life love letter to minimalism and design. But, of course, Pask is nothing if not a master at thoughtful restraint; as an award-winning scenic designer, he’s dreamt up some of the most beloved fictional worlds of our time: Broadway’s The Book of Mormon, The Pillowman and Pippin included. His incredible eye has not only garnered him multiple Tony awards and nominations, but it’s landed him gigs alongside the very best in show biz— think stage sovereigns like Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler to temporary Hollywood transplants like Christopher Walken, Daniel Craig and Michelle Williams. Pask was even approached by Cirque du Soleil to create the troupe’s first production ever designed by an American scenic designer (his show, Amaluna, is still touring today). Most recently, his day job has him “clocking in” with teammates Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney as the trio prepares for the opening of the 1939 revival, The Little Foxes, out next month. If all the world’s a stage, we just ask that Pask outfits it. Here, he sits down with CITIPHILE to reveal his little black book on NYC.

NEIGHBORHOOD STANDBY: GG’s (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x) is my neighborhood canteen— great people, great pizza and a great cast-iron chicken. 

COFFEE OR TEA: This is a hard one as I don’t drink coffee and I only drink tea with a lot of milk when I’m jet-lagged from or during travel…

ALL-TIME FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Pylos (MAP IT, x), with its rustic Greek food on East Seventh Street, is fantastic and you can’t go wrong with a meal of any number of their appetizers. I Sodi in the West Village (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x) is also a favorite– I like to sit at their fantastic bar and have dinner (the cacio e pepe is a must). I  just had a great meal at Kings County Imperial in Williamsburg (MAP IT, x) (I’d recommend going for the “Dim Sum Supper,” or order their terrific chicken with broccoli!). And, I love the classics: The Odeon (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x), Raoul’s (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x), Café Luxembourg (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x)…

COCKTAIL DE LA NUIT: A negroni— I Sodi and Il Buco Alimentari (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x) make a great one! I also like Temple Bar (MAP IT, x) for a drink on a quieter mid-week night.

AFTER-WORK HAPPY HOUR: If I’m in the theatre district during technical rehearsals or previews, I’ll often go to ViceVersa on 51st Street (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x); Franco, the owner, is a terrific host. For post-theatre drinks, it’s Bar Centrale (MAP IT, x); or, with a large group or cast, Glasshouse Tavern on 47th Street (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x), right next door to Waitress the Musical!

MUSIC PICK: I have pretty eclectic taste in music— it can range from the score to a musical I’m currently working on to some bands like Elbow or Ider to some older stuff like The The, Peter Murphy and early Radiohead. For live shows, I like the intimacy of the Music Hall of Williamsburg (MAP IT, x); I saw Laura Mvula there not too long ago.

BEST BRUNCH: The Smile on Bond Street (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x) or Vic’s on Great Jones (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x) after a Sunday morning SoulSurvivor class with friends. Also, Cookshop (MAP IT, BOOK ITx) is a nice weekend spot and the walk there from my East Village home is part of the charm of a lazy weekend morning.

BEST PEOPLE WATCHING: Walking along Hudson River Park on the West Side, The High Line on a great sunny day (surely overcrowded, but fun if you can find the right spot) and The Whitney Museum (MAP IT, x) or The Met (MAP IT, x)— rain or shine.

HEALTHY STAPLE: Hu Kitchen (MAP IT, x) for paleo meatloaf.

GUILTY PLEASURE: Il Laboratorio Del Gelato (MAP ITx)— not often enough!

NY’S BEST-KEPT SECRET: Hmm… it’s not such a secret, but the recently opened Metrograph Cinema (MAP IT, x) is a gem showing archive quality 35mm prints as well as digital projection. Their restaurant upstairs, Commissary (MAP IT, x) is a great room and place to meet for breakfast through late night.

FIRST THING I MISS WHEN I’M AWAY: Most importantly, my friends and chosen family here, but whenever I return from trips or from being away, my first stop is to the bar for a meal at I Sodi.

TO GET INSPIRED: I’m always inspired by a visit to any of the multitudes of museums— particularly, The New Museum (MAP IT, x), The Guggenheim (MAP IT, x) and The Frick Museum (MAP IT, x). Also, I am always happy to visit the second floor of The Neue Galerie (MAP ITx) to see brilliant furniture (by Adolf Loos and many others) and the Gustav Klimt masterworks of Adele Bloch-Bauer; they have a fantastic gift shop too.

TO ESCAPE AND UNWIND: I head to Bellport in Long Island where my brother, as do dear friends, has a weekend getaway. It’s a very special village on the island’s South shore with a ferry to a private beach on Fire Island. It’s beautiful and has an incredible amount of charm, and I love bike riding there on a summer evening. A horizon line be it at the oceans edge or in the desert— always has a soothing and inspirational effect on me.

GO-TO GETAWAY: My favorite getaway is to my home in the foothills of Tucson, Arizona. It’s an amazing city in a part of the country that I find rejuvenating and inspiring. After a downtown visit with friends at the Etherton Gallery (MAP IT, x) or MOCA (MAP IT, x) to see the latest exhibitions,  I’ll head to the Cup Café at the historic Hotel Congress (MAP IT, x) for an order of chilaquiles verde. Other favorite haunts are Kingfisher (MAP IT, x), Penca (MAP IT, x) for great food from central Mexico, Welcome Diner (MAP IT, x) and Commoner (MAP IT, x).

CROWNING CAREER SHOW: That’s an impossible question to answer! [All of the productions I’ve worked on] are truly my favorites, and some for very different reasons: the work, the collaborators, the experience, etc. There are so many that have had a great impact on my life, but to name a few: the off-Broadway play Bash, Take Me Out and The Pillowman (both of which originated in London before coming to New York and were the early shows that began my love of that great city that continues today), Urinetown (which was my first Broadway show), Nine, The Visit, The Book of Mormon (which still makes me laugh uncontrollably every time I see it as though it were the first workshop I was ever a part of), The Coast of Utopia trilogy at the Lincoln Center Theater, I’ll Eat You Last with Bette Midler (I loved that show’s living room set) and The Band’s Visit at the Atlantic Theater Company… but truly, there are too many to mention here without putting everyone into some state of slumber.

DREAM SET: I think it would be a fun and enlightening experience to design a float for the Rose Parade (that’s been a secret wish ever since I was young). I so enjoy the process of designing the exhibitions I’ve done at the New York Botanical Garden (MAP ITx), including Frida-Art-Garden-Life which is currently (and serendipitously) showing at the Tucson Botanical Garden (MAP IT, x). I get to experience a new arena or setting for my work, and learning something new— either from a curator, specialist or horticulturalist— is always exciting.

CLOSET CHECK: My clothes are usually pretty spare and simple: A.P.C. dark denim (or old, worn-in jeans that I carry on the plane because I’m afraid of losing them should a checked bag go missing!), black sweaters and dark tee shirts (James Perse tees are a staple). I gravitate towards black and navy most often. In terms of shopping, A.P.C. (MAP IT, x) is a favorite as is Bergdorf Goodman Men (MAP IT, x) although, full disclosure: my brilliant and stylish twin brother is the men’s fashion director there! Dover Street Market (MAP IT, x) is always an interesting place to shop too and it’s a terrific and evolving space to experience.

BEST HOME DÉCOR: My interior style reflects my upbringing in the desert of Arizona— I am drawn to (and create) open, clear, textured and light-filled spaces with art that I admire and objects and furniture that are singular and hopefully have a history and texture that speaks to me. A special place to visit for treasures for the home is Throckmorton Fine Art on 57th Street (MAP IT, x). It’s always a special experience— almost a retreat from the city— to view their antiquities, photography, ancient objects and ceramics.

BEST HOST/HOSTESS GIFTS: I like to bring a beautiful bottle of wine either from September Wines on Ludlow (MAP IT, x)– they have a terrific Shiraz that I love with a very cool label called Mr. Black’s Little Book (I just got back from Australia, so I’m holding onto that Shiraz moment for a while to keep those [travel] memories fresh!)– or from Urban Wine and Spirits on 1st Avenue (MAP IT, x). Also, a candle from Putnam & Putnam’s new line is a fantastic gift (the earl grey and mythos are my favorite fragrances); you can find them in their shop inside Club Monaco on lower Fifth Avenue (x), alongside a great outpost of The Strand bookstore (x), another great stop for a personal gift.

FIT PICK: I’m a recent convert to Orange Theory (I go to the Astor Place location (x) when I’m in the city and to the studio near my house in Tucson (x) when I’m out there), I try to hit SoulCycle (MAP IT, BOOK ITx) at least once or twice a week (a great workout while focusing on rhythm) and I resistance train at Clay on 14th Street (MAP IT, x).

ULTIMATE NY MOMENT: I had brunch with two friends this weekend at a low-key, downtown bistro and Bill Clinton was in the booth next to us. He went undisturbed through his meal and when he was ready to leave, he was very generous with his time for the people that wanted to meet him and take “selfies.” As we sat in our booth admiring the love for him, he came over just before he left and said, “Hello,” met each of us and shook our hands. It was definitely a “New York moment,” and one we were all very nostalgic for for so many reasons. CP

From L to R: First Row: Doughnuts from Cookshop; Candle from Putnam & Putnam; Inside The Guggenheim; Brunch at  The Smile. Second Row: Books from The Strand; A Negroni at I Sodi; A.P.C.; Fashion from Bergdorf Goodman Men’s.

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