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Volunteer Profile: Anna Louizos and Scott Pask

By Andy Smith

November’s volunteer profile focuses on two of the New York theater’s best scenic designers, both of whom have carved time out of their busy schedules to create original snow globes for Broadway Cares. Anna designed 2008’s Stairway to Paradise globe (our first revolving globe), while Scott created this year’s eye-catching model, as well as the holiday globe from 2005.    

She wasn’t born in a city, but scenic designer Anna Louizos certainly has a flair for creating detailed urban landscapes, including the signature street-scenes of both In the Heights and Avenue Q. She’s also got a knack for old school musicals, evidenced by her much-admired sets for Kander and Ebb’s Curtains and Irving Berlin’s incredibly colorful White Christmas.

This varied portfolio caught the eye of BC/EFA Retail Outreach Manager Peter Borzotta.  “I saw In the Heights Off-Broadway and was so impressed with the scope of Anna's design – there were so many aspects of that neighborhood on that single set. Then I read she designed the tour of White Christmas and I immediately thought she'd be perfect to design a snow globe. Hers was the first one in which the inside piece actually spins.”

Although she’s used to building small-scale models of her sets, Louizos says creating a BC/EFA snow globe presents special challenges. “It has to feature every current Broadway show inside and outside the globe,” she says.

“There’s a lot to crowd into that little ball!”

There were a few twists and turns along the path to her thriving design career. Growing up in Yuba City, California (north of Sacramento), Anna loved performing and planned on becoming an actress, transferring from Mills College in Oakland to NYU to complete a degree in theater. Instructors recognized her talent as a visual artist, and progressively her post-graduate focus shifted to design. Like a lot of aspiring performers, Louizos paid her dues (and her rent) doing restaurant work, but was gradually able to phase out her day jobs and design for the stage full-time, creating memorable backdrops for the long-running Altar Boyz and snagging Tony nominations for In the Heights and the short-lived High Fidelity.

“As a designer, I usually prefer musicals and find that they’re the most challenging,” Anna explains. “They usually require a great deal of thought and frequently multiple sets. Plus I love music and I’ve always loved musicals.” Sets for two more musicals are in the works, including a show about “The Shirelles” at The Pasadena Playhouse, appropriately titled Baby, It’s You, and the musical Minsky’s, based on the legendary burlesque house and 1968 film The Night They Raided Minsky’s.  “Fortunately the Lower East Side still exists. So in addition to research on burlesque, I was able to take a lot pictures of the architecture in the area to capture images from Depression-era New York that still exist today,” she says.

Scott Pask Designed BC/EFA's 2009 Holiday Globe

The creator of our 2005 and 2009 snow globes, two-time Tony Award® winner Scott Pask has designed sets for musicals, too, but even in that milieu he seems drawn to darker works, like Little Shop of Horrors or an acclaimed Metropolitan Opera production of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes. His Tonys came for his work on Tom Stoppard’s Coast of Utopia trilogy and Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman.

Borzotta, however, first approached Pask after seeing his work on lighter fare, the 2005 revival of Sweet Charity. “After seeing Scott's colorful, eye-popping design on that production, I knew I wanted to ask him to design the next globe. Our first globe in 2002 was designed by a scenic designer and was very successful, so I figured it was time again to ask a person who thought in three-dimension to come up with an idea. His first globe was as colorful as I had hoped, and since I love his work and love working with him, I asked him if he'd be up for another design this year and thankfully he said ‘yes,’” Borzotta said.

Pask’s most recent work – on the highly-anticipated A Steady Rain, starring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig – is on view at the Schoenfeld Theatre. “I am always thrilled to design new productions and this was no exception. Doing both the scenery and costumes, I have the opportunity to create a seamless atmosphere for the production.  Hugh and Daniel were inspiring to work with as well, so developing their character’s look with them was fantastic.”

The Chicago-based police drama opened with raves for his imaginative set pieces. “During the play, the two characters describe events that have happened, and I decided to create fleeting, but meticulous, views of what’s being described, creating a gothic perspective of the events portrayed to enhance the storytelling aspect of the evening.”

Scott’s appreciation for detail dates back to his childhood in Yuma, Arizona. He studied architecture at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “I love architecture, but I’m also drawn to narrative structure and I found myself running to the drama school to take graduate-level design courses. The professors saw how eager I was to be there and were excited about the skills i brought from working in architecture: modeling, drawing, and an eye for scale.”

A semester studying in Florence widened his horizons more. “There’s this kind of wonderment in much Italian civic architecture because they’re striving to manipulate space to convey an aspirational sense of God… its inherently theatrical.”

Pask moved to New York immediately after graduation, designing sets for downtown shows and working on a number of independent films in the 1990s, including works by Todd Haynes (Dotty Gets Spanked), Steve Buscemi (Trees Lounge), and Tom DiCillo  (Living in Oblivion), before taking time to pursue his graduate degree in theater design at Yale. Since then, he’s enjoyed an almost uninterrupted series of successful assignments, including Take Me Out, Nine, Off-Broadway’s Blackbird. Les Liaisons Dangereuses and the current smash revival of Hair.

Up next is his third McDonagh production, a staging of the playwright’s new work A Behanding in Spokane, and the revival of Promises, Promises scheduled for 2010. And, we hope, more projects for Broadway Cares in the coming years.

Both Pask and Louizos’ holiday snow globes can be purchased through BC/EFA’s merchandise department by clicking here.


 

 

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