Charles Fuller, the acclaimed playwright best known for his Pulitzer-winning “A Soldier’s Play,” has died. He was 83 years old.
A native of Philadelphia and an Army veteran, Fuller wrote plays that aimed to represent black Americans authentically. as multidimensional and complex characters, rather than being limited to stereotypical roles or eliminated altogether.
His works often highlighted uncomfortable truths about racism in the US and were written with black audiences in mind. For “A Soldier’s Play,” which highlights the tensions between black soldiers on a segregated Army base, Fuller was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for drama and, nearly 40 years later, a Tony Award.
He wrote plays for black audiences
At one of these informative performances, an audience member recommended that Fuller enter a play competition at the McCarter Theater Center in Princeton, New Jersey — within a week, he wrote his first play, “The Perfect Party,” which won the award. competition and was produced in the theater. The play, about an interracial couple involved in the civil rights movement, transferred off-Broadway in 1969.
Fuller laughed off his “terrible criticisms” in his conversation with Nottage. But it was production However which gained him greater acceptance in New York theater circles.
The 1974 play “The Deepest Part of Sleep,” about an incestuous family, was produced by the New York-based Negro Ensemble Company (NEC). The theater company was founded by black artists in 1967, producing works for black audiences. And Fuller would continue to work with the company for years.
“We thought we were making history,” he said of his NEC colleagues. “Actually, we were.”
‘A Soldier’s Play’ won the Pulitzer
The first off-Broadway production, directed by his long-term creative partner and NEC co-founder Douglas Turner Ward, starred Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson in supporting roles. (A 2006 Broadway revival starred Taye Diggs and Anthony Mackie.)
When he won, he dedicated his award to NEC contributors.
“A Soldier’s Play” was adapted for the screen in 1984, its title was changed to “A Soldier’s Story” and it was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay for Fuller and Best Supporting Actor for NEC collaborator Adolph Caesar.
Fuller’s play is coming to Broadway
The play’s Broadway run was cut short by Covid-19 – it opened in January 2020, closing in March after the pandemic closed theaters for more than a year. But Fuller said he didn’t expect it to make it to Broadway in the first place.
Fuller (center, in brown coat and hat) joined the cast of the Broadway revival of “A Soldier’s Play” onstage to celebrate the opening. Credit: Walter McBride/Getty Images
“Broadway doesn’t drive me,” he told American Theatre. “What drives my work is always: Is it real? Is it important to our country? And if it is, I will be successful. If not, I wasted everyone’s time in the theater.”
Fuller wrote other works, including short stories and screenplays. His latest, the 2013 play “One Night …” was again set among the armed forces, and spoke about sexual assaults in the US military.
But he’ll always be best known for “A Soldier’s Play,” though he says he’s undecided about his legacy in 2020.
When asked about one of the play’s most famous lines — “You’ll have to get used to black people being in charge” — Fuller bluntly replied, “Well, that’s as clear as it gets.”