Actor, writer, director Jackman Strawn Draper was born on September 26, 1962 in Bronxville, NY. Before the age of one, his family moved to New Canaan, CT where he attended the local schools, graduating from New Canaan High School in the class of 1981. He matriculated to Northwestern University, earning his BA from the School of Speech with a major in Theater in 1985.
Jase began his acting career at the age of ten when he was in the chorus of Anything Goes with the Town Players of New Canaan. He caught the attention of a New York casting director in the audience, who asked the young boy if he wanted to be on the soap opera, The Doctors. Jase worked professionally from that moment forward, in theater, film, commercials and voiceovers.
Some of Jase’s more memorable on-camera commercials include Good & Plenty, Oxy10, Audi, Coca-Cola, and Nabisco Shredded Wheat. He was a ubiquitous presence on the radio as well, with a naive, quirky character voice that got him cast in countless voiceovers. Of special note was his work for Heinz Baked Beans, a British radio campaign in which he voiced the role of the Super Bean, a Woody Allen-esque character. The spots were a sensation that generated quite a bit of fan mail, as well a certain amount of interest from Mr. Allen’s attorneys.
As a teenager, Jase formed a theater company in New Canaan known as the Barnum Players, which made its home in the Waveny Carriage Barn. This bright young group worked together under his creative direction throughout middle school, high school and beyond. With this company, Jase was able to draw on his many talents, simultaneously producing, directing, choreographing and acting in musicals, dramas, comedies, even a few classics by O’Neill and Shakespeare. After college, the Barnum Players evolved into a professional company, The Courthouse Theater Company, which produced several summer seasons on Cape Cod in Barnstable, MA, and many New York productions off-Broadway. Distinguishing itself with a focus on original adaptations of literature, The Courthouse Theater Company brought to the stage the words of Cheever, Welty, Fitzgerald and Saki.
Meanwhile, Jase continued to broaden the scope of his career, working with dozens of theater companies in New York and regionally. He made his New York debut in a revival of Take Me Along, of which Stephen Holden of the New York Times said, “Mr. Draper… brings a bright, spunky conviction to his portrayal of a hyper-romantic, intellectually precocious teenager.” He worked extensively in developing new musicals with TheaterworksUSA, and new plays at Ensemble Studio Theatre, as well working with up-and-coming talents in the graduate playwriting program at NYU. He was seen nationally in the Broadway Tour of the Tony Award-winning musical Big River, which performed at the Kennedy Center and other major venues around the country.
Most recently, Jase began pursuing the creative possibilities of film, collaborating on a number of award-winning independent films that toured the festival circuit. It was an interest formed early in his career when he was cast in the film The Roommate, which screened not only at the Sundance Film Festival, but was released in theaters across Europe, and was broadcast in the US on PBS.
Jase’s other interests included singing, songwriting, blogging, photography, biking, gardening, and almost any pursuit that got him out of the city and into nature. One of his most cherished vacations was a summer spent riding his bike coast to coast from Connecticut to California.
Jase passed away on May 11, 2011, surrounded by family and friends, at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, after bravely living the last 3 years of his life with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Jase is predeceased by his father, Frank Jackman Draper, who passed away in February of 2010. Jase is survived by his mother, Nancy Roberts Draper of Naples, FL and Falmouth, MA, his sister Jan Draper Elliott and her husband Michael Elliott of Bethel, CT, his brother Arthur Draper and his wife Pamela of Hudson, OH, nephews Christopher and Andrew, and niece Elizabeth.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the ALS Association Greater New York Chapter (www.als-ny.org).