Ruth Draper (1884-1956)
Ruth Draper (1884-1956), character actress, dramatist, and diseuse, invented the modern monologue. Throughout nearly 40 years as a professional performer, from her debut in 1920 until the night she died in 1956, Draper filled theaters all over the world through her unique ability to transform herself into a vast array of characters in one-woman theater.
Draper was born in Manhattan in 1884. From a young age, she possessed the ability to depict imagined worlds, a talent she later cited as a key aspect of her creative process. She began her career performing in private shows for people such as Franklin Roosevelt and H.H. Asquith, prime minister of Britain before becoming a favorite of royal families throughout Europe. Beginning in the early 1920's, Draper dominated the field of one-woman theater in the United States and Europe. Her best-known pieces included The Italian Lesson, Three Women and Mr. Clifford, Doctors and Diets, and A Church in Italy. In 1951, King George VI of the United Kingdom awarded Draper honorary membership in the Order of the British Empire with the rank of Commander.
Draper died on December 30, 1956, of a heart attack just hours after giving a performance on Broadway at the Playhouse Theatre. Her contemporary following includes performers and writers such as David Mamet, Lily Tomlin, John Lithgow, and Tom Waits. In 2019, the Complete Recorded Monologues, Ruth Draper (1954-1956) was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”