Ben Zawacki: Professional Draper

For over 50 years, Staples Players has served as a pre-professional launching pad. Hundreds of alums have gone on to rewarding, highly regarded — and sometimes even lucrative — careers in acting, directing, dancing, lighting and set design.

Now, add costuming to the list.

As a child growing up in Westport, Ben Zawacki was inspired by Broadway shows, Lincoln Center ballets, and of course Players productions.

He did not want to act. He played in the pit orchestra as a freshman, but the next year discovered the costume crew.

Ben Zawacki, hard at work.

Ben Zawacki, hard at work.

Dee Alexander — who designed costumes for all of director David Roth’s shows — took Ben under her wing. Working on Players shows — as well as her New Canaan High productions — Ben learned the craft quickly, and well.

The summer before senior year, he did an 8-week program at Carnegie Mellon. He studied scene and lighting design, painting,  carpentry, and costume technology.

That last course opened up a new world. Costume technology became Ben’s major at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He learned everything from basic sewing skills to pattern making, advanced draping and tailoring.

From his first moment there, Ben wanted to become a professional draper in a costume shop.

A draper takes a costume designer’s rendering, and brings it to a wearable form. He creates all the patterns, and does all the costume fitting — while managing the team that cuts and stitches the fabric. They’re always on deadline.

Over 5 summers at Williamstown Theatre Festival, Ben worked his way up from intern to head draper. Now he’s assistant draper at Tricorne LLC, building costumes for Broadway, TV, film, opera and dance.

These bias cut dresses for "Ten Cents a Dance" at the Williamstown Theatre Festival were made of very fine fabrics -- and they had to be completed in a tight time frame. It was one of Ben Zawacki's toughest assignments.

These bias cut dresses for “Ten Cents a Dance” at the Williamstown Theatre Festival were made of very fine fabrics — and they had to be completed in a tight time frame. It was one of Ben Zawacki’s toughest assignments.

“I love the magic of watching a designer’s sketch become a 3-D work of art that can withstand 8 shows a week,” Ben says.

A good draper needs a good sense of math — and a good sense of the human form.

“I went to school with self-taught sewing skills, and only able to read a commercial pattern,” Ben explains.

“Now I can hard-tailor a man’s coat, make bias cut and period gowns, all while creating my own patterns.” He is detail-oriented — not just about what the audience sees, but how a garment is finished on the inside. “We don’t take any shortcuts,” Ben says.

He certainly has not taken any shortcuts in his career — though he’s made a big impression, in a brief time.

And he makes it look sew easy.

13 responses to “Ben Zawacki: Professional Draper

  1. Kelly Crisp

    Great story. What a dedicated and talented young man. All the best Ben!

  2. way to go, Ben!

  3. Bravo, Ben! Great to hear!

  4. Hedi Lieberman

    Dear Ben…when you were in elementary school, I was the art smart mother for the class. We designed one dimensional costumes for 3 political couples. The Clintons, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and if I recall the other couple was perhaps The Lincolns. I brought fabric to school and accessories and I recall how much you loved the project!! Glad to see that spark I saw that day is now your career! All the best,
    Hedi Lieberman (Teicher)

  5. Congrats, Ben! So happy to see your pursuing (and succeeding at!) what you love.

  6. Way to go Ben! It is so wonderful when one discovers something s/he really loves to do, has the talent to do … AND (as an added bonus) can support themselves doing it! Kind of like finding the correct key to unlock a particular door!

  7. Beautiful photos of Ben and his work

  8. sandy johnson

    I have known Ben since he was very young and have watched him grow and develop the great talent he has. He is a wonderfully talented young man with a great personality!! You will go far ,Ben – look forward to reading about all your future successes!!

  9. Diann Drenosky

    Ben deserves all the success he is achieving. He has worked extremely hard for many years to get where he is!!! Ben is a great young man and one of my most favorite students! Congrats Ben.

  10. Hi Ben-What a great tribute to you. I love to follow your news from you mother and so glad that it is working so well.


  11. Congratulations to the funny, creative, passionate eighth grader who’s grown up in wonderful ways.

  12. Gerry Kuroghlian

    I second Diane’s comment. Ben had his career goals set early on during his Staples years. Achieving a life goal is a great event. BRAVO BEN!