The Theater: Little Genius

"I love Ruth Draper," wrote Henry Adams to a friend. "She is a little genius and quite fascinates me." When Adams wrote in 1911, the 26-year-old actress was still an amateur, reciting in people's drawing rooms. Then, as always, she created her own material; only once in her life appearing in a play, Ruth Draper at length became the most finished of professionals, without exhibiting the vices and vulgarities of professionalism. Thus, she has never sought in her sketches to keep up with the times, and so has never fallen behind them.

Last week Ruth Draper, 69, began a "farewell Broadway engagement"—while...