The American Tourist performed by Ruth Draper (left) and Patricia Norcia (right)
The American Tourist performed by Ruth Draper (left) and Patricia Norcia (right)

I’m often asked “How did you become interested in Ruth Draper?” When I was a student at the Yale School of Drama, a professor, who had stage-managed Ruth Draper on Broadway, asked me to perform “The Italian Lesson.” I had never heard of Ruth Draper. I went to the library and listened to some of her classic recordings and fell in love with “In a Church In Italy”. What moved me terribly was the humanity, the basic loneliness of each character. What intrigued me was the possibility of acting in different languages and having everyone understand me.

No two people could be more different — Ruth Draper grew up in New York society at the turn of the century. I grew up in Rome, went to Italian school, then British school there, then American school in the US. There were also some similarities: my family is made up of opera singers and music was always around us. Ruth’s mother was a pianist and there was music throughout her childhood too. She, too, loved Italy and felt she had a second home there.

The years I’ve spent working on this project have been an odyssey: I’ve met Ruth Draper’s biographer and many members of her wonderful family. They have coached me and told me stories and did things like saying “No, no, she did that bit in “Doctors and Diets” like this!” and shown me.

I have played the monologues from Carnegie Hall to Tokyo; at society parties and for Inner City ten year-olds. In every case, people who have never heard of her before find themselves in love with Ruth Draper. I have realized how precious the monologues are and how important it is that they not be lost.

– Patricia Norcia