Because of the uniqueness of her artistry and persona, and the lack of a comprehensive record of her actual performances, Ruth Draper has received relatively little attention from theatre scholars. This may be a blessing.
Without question, the leading authority on Ruth Draper was Dorothy Warren of New York City, a nonacademic whose approach to Draper was decidedly down to earth. Miss Warren was acquainted with Miss Draper and saw more than 30 of her performances, often watching from the wings.
“Ruth Draper made her professional debut in London in 1920. Three years later, while still in my teens, I was taken to see her perform. I was fascinated. This was pure magic! Inheriting the interests of several generations of theatre buffs, I felt sure that hers was a unique talent and determined to see as much of her repertoire in performance as possible. During 1929 and 1930, Ruth Draper had long runs of 18 and 20 weeks in New York. I was invited backstage by her manager but was careful to keep out of her way. Soon though, Miss Draper noticed my interest and said she would not have me buying any more tickets to see her. “Miss Warren may come in the stage door whenever she wishes,” she told the stage doorman. I was also fortunate to know many of her friends. Her elder sister and brother were contemporaries of my parents and part of my own growing up.”
- Interview with Dorothy Warren, August, 1998
Since retiring from a career in financial work, Miss Warren devoted many years to compiling and preserving an accurate record of Ruth Draper’s life and work. In 1979, writing as Neilla Warren, she completed the editing of The Letters of Ruth Draper: A Self-Portrait of a Great Actress (published by Scribner’s). Draper was a prodigious correspondent and her letters to friends and family provide us with a remarkable picture of this remarkable artist. A paperback reissue of The Letters of Ruth Draper was published in 1998 by Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale). It was followed, in 1999, by publication (also by Southern Illinois University Press) of Miss Warren’s new full-length biography: The World of Ruth Draper.
The two books work in tandem to present the portrait of a genius.
Young, Jordan R., Acting Solo: The Art of One Man Shows. Moonstone Press, 1989.
Zabel, Morton Dauwen, The Art of Ruth Draper. Doubleday & Co., Inc., New York, 1960; Oxford University Press, London 1960. Text of 37 of Ruth Draper’s best known monologues and biographical sketch. (Out of Print)