NEW YORK — If it’s true that twins are capable of sensing one another’s emotions at the same time, then Bruce and Scott Pask are riding the same high.
In the arc of their individual careers in New York over the past decade — Bruce Pask as a fashion stylist and Scott Pask designing theatrical sets — the 35-year-old brothers have risen steadily in their respective standings, while simultaneously discovering that there are increasingly frequent points of intersection between them. The latest coincidence for the Pasks is that their most recent projects are drawing each of them considerable attention.
Scott Pask designed the set for “Nine,” the Fellini-inspired musical with Antonio Banderas and Chita Rivera that began playing previews last week on Broadway, while Bruce Pask’s recent styling projects for photographer Annie Liebovitz have grown increasingly prominent, including the broadly dissected poster image for last season’s “Sopranos” premiere and the April fold-out cover of Vanity Fair that featured 13 leading male actors of Hollywood.
Working behind the scenes of fashion and theater rarely creates the sort of industry celebrity of a designer or actor, but the Pasks are becoming well known in their fields and conversely, in each other’s businesses, as well. Bruce designed the costumes for “Design for Living,” a Broadway flop from 2001 that was only briefly noted for its opulent dress and a celebrity cast: Dominic West, Alan Cumming and Marisa Berenson.
Conversely, Scott crossed over to the fashion world to produce the sets for the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s annual awards ceremony for its last two events held at Lincoln Center. A lot of those connections come from natural circumstances: The Pasks share many mutual friends and also share a small office on Union Square where they can’t help but poke their noses into one another’s business.
“We both have a lot of ambition to make it here, but that’s what happens when you come from the middle of nowhere,” said Bruce, referring to their upbringing in the small town of Yuma, Ariz., where they shared a bedroom and rarely got along, especially not during trips to Sears for their childhood portraits.
“We walked faster and talked faster than anybody there,” Scott added. “We had to get out.”
After high school, the brothers went their separate ways: Scott studied architecture in Arizona and then theater at Yale; Bruce pursued art history in Virginia, but both of their careers eventually brought them to New York. Bruce found a job in the public relations department of Paul Smith, which led to an entry-level job at GQ, where he eventually became associate fashion director. Scott started working with John Kelly on independent films as an art director, then made his way to the stages of New York and London, creating the sets for dozens of shows, including three currently on Broadway —?”Nine,” “Urinetown: The Musical” and “Take Me Out” — and another opening in July, a revival of “The Little Shop of Horrors.”
Ironically, since Bruce left GQ to start a freelance career three years ago, the brothers have moved their independent operations to an office space about the size of a small bedroom and usually get along much better now.
“Sometimes he’s on the phone too much,” Scott said.
Although the Pasks made a point of studying on opposite sides of the country, barely speaking back then as they tried to realize their individual identities, there are still connections that are fairly obvious to someone looking at their work. The set of “Nine” is a graphic fusion of ancient and modern — a stage covered with tumbled and cracked marble tiles over which a severe spiral steel staircase and catwalk dangles, and an oversized mosaic of Botticelli’s “Three Graces” serves as a backdrop. Similarly, the cast of Vanity Fair’s April cover of Jack Nicholson, Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Tom Cruise and the rest are tied together with a wardrobe that ranges from a relaxed T-shirt and jeans to a buttoned-up suit.
Both were designed to appear relatively simple and architecturally intricate at the same time.
Scott describes his approach to the theater as neither minimalist nor austere, but prefers to show only “the essential on stage,” he said. “I’m all for pushing the boundaries in theater, but I’m not a big fan of the superfluous.”
Meanwhile, Bruce describes his approach to editing a wardrobe as that of a reductionist, looking for what looks appropriate and most natural. “I’m looking for clothes that are part of the whole person and not full of ridiculous artifice,” he said.
Despite the similarities, there are, of course, differences of opinion, especially when it comes to the reviews.
“Photographs don’t get held to such public accounting as the theater,” Bruce said. “The reviews don’t come out the next day. No one ever says, ‘Oh, that Bruce Webber photo. What was he thinking?’”
Which is why the brothers rely on one another.
“Sometimes I get to a place where I can’t be objective anymore,” Scott said.
“That’s where I come in,” Bruce replied. “To alleviate the stress and offers some valid, and hopefully helpful, guidance.”