If you frequent the Houston theater scene, Dennis Draper is one of those names that you have surely come across, a lot. Draper has been an active member of Houston's dramatic world for two decades as an actor and director. Draper is also the go-to guy if you want your fund-raising gala to be a hit and/or make any money. Draper not only organizes such affairs for small and medium theater companies, he also plays with the big boys. Draper is the Director of Events & Operations at the Alley Theatre, so it is more than fair to say he knows a thing or two about how to plan and execute a theater-centric party.
Draper was born and raised in the "piney woods of North East Texas" and, as he describes it, "got to the big city as fast as he could." He is a graduate of the University of Houston's School of Theatre department, and the theater community of this "big city" is where he has found his home.
He has worked with nearly every theater company in the city in some capacity, and most recently you can find him making incredibly quick costume changes in between all the singing and dancing he is doing in the Catastrophic Theatre's annual summer extravaganza Tamarie Cooper's Doomsday Revue. Draper happens to have one of the best cameo roles in the production, which I will not spoil for you.
What He Does: For his money gig, Draper has been the Director of Events & Operations at the Alley Theatre for the past 18 years, which means he manages the day-to-day operations of the theater, from the grand events to all the little things. And while Draper remarks this isn't exactly the "side of theater that I dreamt of being involved with professionally," he feels that his experiences with this type of work have been invaluable in aiding his passion projects. "Just being in the same building as some of the amazing art that is being created really motivates you by osmosis."
Those passions culminate in Draper's real loves of acting and directing. As a director he has worked with the Six of One Productions, Unhinged Productions, Alley Theatre's Houston Young Playwrights Exchange (H.Y.P.E.), Halloween Magic, Script Writer's Houston and Illumination Arts. As an actor he has worked with Mildred's Umbrella, the Texas Shakespeare Festival, Thunderclap Productions, Mystery Café, the Albee Workshops, Theatre New West, Wordsmyth Theater Company, Catastrophic Theatre and Curtains Theatre.
Why He Likes It: "It is hard to explain why I love theatre so much," says Draper.
"I just have loved it from the earliest I can remember. I love the art of it. I love creating something and presenting it. It is very much like what a painter or sculptor feels when they create a new work. The best part of the theater, though, is that it is new every day."
Draper goes on to say that he is not interested in becoming a famous actor or director. The starving artist gig is not in the cards for him, but he also cannot imagine his life without the theater. "I just need to have theater in my life. Houston is a great place for that, too, with well over 40 theater companies in the Houston area," he adds.
What Inspires Him: Draper is inspired by life and finds motivation through everyday occurrences. "Love, art, relationships, crazy news stories. I will see a news program and get really worked up and feel motivated to do something about it -- through volunteering or through creating a theater piece that is a response."
In addition to his love of life, being around other creative types gets his blood pumping.
"With Tamarie Cooper's show, which is an original piece written by Tamarie and Patrick Reynolds, I really feel energized by the creative juices and that is wonderful for an actor," he notes. As a director, new work, local talent and the camaraderie that comes with the world of theater serve as an inspiration to Draper.
If Not This, Then What? "I have always wanted to teach. I love working with kids. I am also a geek that likes crafts and I have just taught myself to cross-stitch and embroider -- so maybe I would just sit in a rocking chair on a porch and do that for a living!!"
If Not Here, Then Where? Draper loves Houston, but wouldn't be opposed to some cooler temperatures.
"I am thinking about Portland, Oregon. I would love to spend some time in that beautiful part of the country. I would love to see what a cooler climate is like (although I am a real Southern boy -- or belle, as some have said)."
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What's Next? "I am gearing up for the Alley's 66th season and working with playwright Crystal Jackson on new projects for Six of One Productions. I am also working with Mildred's Umbrella Theater Company as a board member."
More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Mat Johnson, novelist and tweeter Orna Feinstein, printmaker and installation artist Adriana Soto, jewelry designer Domokos Benczédi, Noise and Collage Artist Robert Boswell, Book Author, UH Prof Patrick Turk, visual artist Elizabeth Keel, playwright Bob Martin, designer Mary Lampe, short film promoter and developer Nisha Gosar, Indian classical dancer Jeremy Wells, painter George Brock, theater teacher Radu Runcanu, painter Ariane Roesch, Mixed-Media Sandie Zilker, art jewelry maker Philip Hayes, actor Patrick Palmer, painter Ana Mae Holmes, Jewelry Designer John Tyson, actor Jerry Ochoa, violinist and filmmaker Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music Laura Burlton, photographer David Peck, fashion designer Rebecca Udden, theater director Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer Paul Fredric, author John Sparagana, photographer Damon Smith, musician and visual artist Geoff Winningham, photographer Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor Katya Horner, photographer Johnathan Felton, artist Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer Carol Simmons, hair stylist Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet Greg Carter, director Kenn McLaughlin, theater director Justin Whitney, musician Antone Pham, tattoo artist Susie Silbert, crafts Lauralee Capelo, hair designer Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director J.J. Johnston, theater director Mary Margaret Hansen, artist Richard Tallent, photographer Viswa Subbaraman, opera director Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright