Ruth Draper (born December 2, 1884, New York City – died December 30, 1956, New York, New York) was an American actress and dramatist. She specialized in character-driven monologues and monodrama. Her best known pieces include The Italian Lesson, Three Women and Mr. Clifford, Doctors and Diets, and A Church in Italy.
Such theatre legends as George Bernard Shaw, Thornton Wilder, John Gielgud, Katharine Hepburn, Maurice Chevalier, Laurence Olivier, and Uta Hagen were among those dazzled by Draper’s artistry and talent, as were Henry James, Henry Adams, and Edith Wharton.
Draper died in 1956, aged 72, just hours after giving a performance on Broadway. A short biography of Draper is among several collected by the Anglo-Italian writer Iris Origo in her 1984 book, A Need to Testify. [Wikipedia]
Unlike Midler, Draper’s forties were not flamboyance and tackiness, but pathos, dialect and improvisation, She tired to act in traditional theatre, but found it impossible to deliver other people’s words. She invented characters by observing real people and listening to their voices. She then created stories around the characters and took them to the stage. Using only simple props and gestures she created marvelous illusions and shifted between her 54 characters. A woman of great personal integrity, she sheltered Italian refugees during Mussolini’s regime, yet missed only one performance in her entire 53-year career. A few months later, she returned to the town she missed and gave the performance. [Remember the Ladies, Kirstin Olsen]