Biography of Costumer David F. Draper

Get to Know David

Journey of Creativity

From Washington, DC to San Francisco, CA
40 Years of Training and Experience

David F. Draper was born and raised in and around Washington, D.C.  He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on scholarship as a Math major.  He transferred to University of Maryland, College Park where he graduated with a B.A. in Theatre (Acting/Directing).  Although accepted into the N.Y.U.  Directing program, he chose the University of Texas, Austin, where he received his M.F.A.  in Costume Design.  While there, he designed Pinter’s  The Birthday Party and as his thesis show, How to Succeed in Business… During this time, he did a summer apprenticeship at the New York Public Theatre Costume Shop.

He was hired as Costume Shop Manager for the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, where he was also an associate designer.  While he had learned basic pattern manipulation at UT, he had no background in draping or patterning.  Right out of the gate he had to cut a wild assortment of costumes for Raggedy Ann and Andy.  That’s when he started his draping career.  While there he designed Pirandello’s Sicillian Limes / Bella Vita (dir: John Clark Donahue) Legend of Sleepy Hollow (dir: John Clark Donahue) The Nightingale (dir: Myron Cohen) and Ukranian Tales (dir: Myron Cohen).

During one summer hiatus he worked Summer Stock at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, L.I.  There he designed a show every 2 weeks, and executed all the costumes with a crew of three eager but young college students.  Shows that summer were Mame,  Anything Goes (in which he also had a small role) and Zorba.

David next moved to San Francisco, where between temp jobs and performing in a couple of caberet shows in North Beach, he found time to design Babes in Arms (dir: Glenn DuBose).  Those designs were included in Bernard Weiner, the SF Chronical’s critic’s “Best of the Year, 1975” list.

He went to Cabrillo Summer Theatre designing Arsenic and Old Lace (w/ Sylvia Sidney) Oklahoma and Marriage-Go-Round (w/ Vivian Vance).  Also in the Santa Cruz area he acted in several shows and directed The Glass Menagerie and The Nightengale.

S.U.N.Y. Binghamton hired David to design their student main-stage shows as well as teach an intro to costume technology class.  Shows included Arsenic and Old Lace (again!) A Midsummer Night’s Dream, La Ronde, Guys and Dolls, Androcles and the Lion (which had a run at the Perry St. Theatre in New York) and King Lear (w/ Ken Ruta).  He also designed, among others, The Boyfriend, Wonderful Town, and Something’s Afoot for the nearby Cider Mill Playhouse.

New York City was the next logical move.  David made a list of costume shops, and started dropping resumes uptown at Ray Diffen Stage Clothes (managed by the team that would become Parsons-Meares).  Luckily they were really jammed and hired him on the spot as a first hand, then soon as a draper.  King of Hearts (des: Patricia Zipprodt) was his first Broadway show and his first out-of-town trial by fire.

David next worked in a smaller shop, Jimmy Meyer’s, where Jimmy became his mentor, guiding him to a much higher level of draping skill.  While there he worked on mostly smaller projects, largely performance clothes for a list that included Divine, Sammy David, Jr., Klaus Nomi (yes, David draped that famous white patent leather dickey) Maxine Andrews, Melissa Manchester, and Parliament  Funkadelic.  He also worked on new costumes for American Dance Machine’s celebration, including Ann Reinkink’s  wardrobe, Babar for the Met Opera Ballet, and numerous sets of prom dresses and Angelette uniforms for Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”(des: Ann Roth).  He also spent evenings performing in Hit Tunes from Broadway Flops in the West Village and designing  Fortune and Men’s Eyes, Resurrection of Jackie Cramer,  and various other small showcases.

When Jimmy downsized, David jobbed around draping men’s chorus costumes for Houston Opera’s La Donna del Lago (des: Jane Greenwood) replacement “Turandot” costumes for the Met… settling in as draper for Tony Chase.

He did some of Tony’s fashion line, but mostly draped and altered performance clothes for clients like Lainie Kazan, Connie Francis and Mick Jagger.

He was hired by the Baltimore Opera to build costumes for Evelyn Lear for their upcoming Carmen.  While there for final fits and tech, he was hired by the Opera to supervise the volunteer alteration staff and to work with a local costume house to create new pieces as needed.  He wound up building entire new productions of Fledermaus, Die Walkure, Candide (w/Jean Stapleton) and Kismet (w/ Patrice Munsel, Eddie Bracken and himself as Jawan).  He was hired to design Romeo and Juliet for the Baltimore School for the Arts, and later as staff designer.  In that position, he designed and built all the costumes for both the Theatre and Dance Departments, instructing mostly acting students basic sewing skills to assist him.  Shows there included Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysistrata, Nutcracker Ballet, Marat/ Sade. and dance pieces Pictures at an Exhibition and Hoe Down/ On the Town, performed with the Baltimore Symphony.

Through the School for the Arts he became involved with the 1840 House, which was preserved and decorated by the City Life Museum.  A play, Steps In Time, was created about everyday life within that house, which David designed.  Separate scenes happened in different rooms as visitors were guided through the house.  The play later expanded, adding new characters (and costumes). It was filmed by Maryland Public Television, and shown on PBS.  

While in Baltimore, David designed shows for Towson Summer Theatre: Threepenny Opera and West Side Story and draped many others.  The newly-formed Baltimore Actors’ Theatre hired him to design Taming of the Shrew (dir: Donald Hicken) and Macbeth (dir: Richard Pilcher).  He also designed for Annapolis Opera: Cosi Fan Tutte and Rigoletto, for Peabody Opera Theatre: Tartuffe, Nightingale/L’Enfant et les Sortileges, and for Baltimore Ballet: Hansel and Gretel and Aladdin and his Lamp.

Summer, 1987, David draped Much Ado About Nothing for Shakespeare Santa Cruz, and was asked back to run the shop the next year.  He found out on his first day that A.C.T. in San Francisco was looking for a shop manager, a job he held for 25 years.  Still summering in Santa Cruz for a few years he designed Waiting for Godot (dir: Audrey Stanley). He also returned to Santa Cruz to teach a draping class at U.C.

During his time at A.C.T. David oversaw usually 8 shows per season, working with great designers including Bob Blackman, Judith Dolan, Deb Dryden, Robert Fletcher, Gregory Gale, Jane Greenwood, Alex Jaeger, Susan Hilferty (for whom he also built new pieces for Wicked while it was in out-of-town try outs here in San Francisco) Martin Pakledinez and Catherine Zzuber.  He worked with notable actors, including Roscoe Lee Browne, Peter Donat, Olympia Dukakis, William Hurt, Bill Irwin, Ruth Kobart, Michael Learned, Bebe Newirth, Ken Ruta, Jean Stapleton, David Strathairn and many great local actors.

He has often designed for A.C.T. : Joe Turner’s Come and Gone  (dir: Claude Purdy), The Cocktail  Hour (dir Albert Takazauckas), Rosenkrantz and Guilderstern  (dir: Richard Seyd,winner of Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for best Costume Design), Hecuba (w/ Olympia Dukakis; dir: Carey Perloff), Oleanna (dir: Richard Seyd) Difficulty of Crossing a Field (w/Julia Magines; dir Carey Perloff), Hilda (dir: Carey Perloff) which also had runs at the Studio Theatre in Wash, D.C. and the Laura Pels theatre in New York,  Blackbird (dir: Loretta Greco), At Home/ At the Zoo (dir: Rebecca Taichman), and Higher (dir: Mark Rucker). 

David designed for California Music Circus in Sacramento: Sound of Music (dir: Scott Eckern)  Altar Boyz (dir: Tye Blue), Oklahoma! (dir: Marcia Milgrom Dodge), Oliver! (dir: Richard Stafford), Annie Get Your Gun (dir: Gary John LaRosa), and Grease (dir: Glenn Casale).  He also worked at the Guthrie Theatre, draping for Pride and Prejudice.

In San Francisco David designed Hitting for the Cycle (Magic Theatre; dir: David Dower) and Song of Singapore (Bimbo’s; dir: Tony Tanner).  He designed Breathe Normally (Isadora Duncan Award nomination) May I Now and Times Bones for the Margaret Jenkins Dance Co.  His private client list included Brian Boitano, for whom he built many skating outfits over the years. 

At Davies Symphony Hall, David did the costumes for The World of Nick Adams a staged play reading of Hemmingway’s short stories to benefit Paul Newman’s Painted Turtle Foundation.  He coordinated wardrobe and designed WW I era accessories for over a dozen big Hollywood names, including Jack Nicholson, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Casey Affleck, Sean Penn, Bruce Willis, and Joaquin Phoenix.

Scenes from ACT Productions

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Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

dir: Claude Purdy
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Rosenkrantz and Guilderstern
dir: Richard Seyd
Winner of Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for best Costume Design
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Hilda

dir: Carey Perloff
A
lso had runs at the Studio Theatre in Wash, D.C. and the Laura Pels theatre in New York.
More Looks

He has designed for A.C.T. : “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”  (dir: ClAude Purdy) “The Cocktail  Hour” (dir Albert Takazauckas) “Rosenkrantz and Guilderstern “ (dir: Richard Seyd(winner of Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for best Costume Design) “Hecuba” (w/ Olympia Dukakis; dir: Carey Perloff) “Oleanna” (dir: Richard Seyd) “Difficulty of Crossing a Field (w/Julia Magines; dir Carey Perloff) “Hilda” (dir: Carey Perloff) which also had runs at the Studio Theatre in Wash, D.C. and the Laura Pels theatre in New York,  “Blackbird” (dir: Loretta Greco) “At Home/ At the Zoo” (dir: Rebecca Taichman) and “Higher” (dir: Mark Rucker). 

Blackbird
dir: Loretta Greco
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At Home/ At the Zoo
dir: Rebecca Taichman
Higher
dir. Mark Rucker
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David designed for California Music Circus in Sacramento: “Sound of Music” (dir: Scott Eckern) “ Altar Boyz” (dir: Tye Blue) “”Oklahoma!” (dir: Marcia Milgrom Dodge) “Oliver!” (dir: Richard Stafford) “Annie Get Your Gun” (dir: Gary John LaRosa) and “Grease” (dir: Glenn Casale).  He also worked at the Guthrie Theatre, draping for “Pride and Prejudice.”

California Music Circus Productions

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Sound of Music
dir: Scott Eckern
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Altar Boyz
dir: Tye Blue
Oklahoma

dir: Marcia Milgrom Dogde
A
lso had runs at the Studio Theatre in Wash, D.C. and the Laura Pels theatre in New York
More Looks  

 
Grease
dir: Glenn Casale
More Looks  
 

In San Francisco David designed “Hitting for the Cycle” (Magic Theatre; dir: David Dower and “Song of Singapore” (Bimbo’s; dir: Tony Tanner).  He designed “Breathe Normally” (Isadora Duncan Award nomination) “May I Now” and “Times Bones” for the Margaret Jenkins Dance Co.  His private client list included Brian Boitano, for whom he built many skating outfits over the years. 

At Davies Symphony Hall, David did the costumes for “The World of Nick Adams” a staged play reading of Hemmingway’s short stories to benefit Paul Newman’s Painted Turtle Foundation.  He coordinated wardrobe and designed WW I era accessories for over a dozen big Hollywood names, including Jack Nicholson, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Warren Beatty, Annett Bening, Casey Affleck, Sean Penn, Bruce Willis, and Joaquin Phoenix.