A Soldier's Play Essay - Critical Context (Masterplots II: Drama)

Charles Fuller

Critical Context (Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

Drawing from his own experiences with racism in college, his enlistment in the U.S. Army, and later work in minority neighborhoods and local theaters in Philadelphia, Fuller wrote plays that explore relationships between blacks and whites and relationships within the black community. His plays have been praised by critics for their realism and complex characters.

Fuller’s first major play was The Village: A Party, produced in 1968. Renamed The Perfect Party with the 1969 production, this play about interracial relationships then moved to New York City where it played Off-Broadway for several weeks. While not the best work of his career, it garnered Fuller enough attention and encouragement to persuade him to move to New York, where he wrote several more plays. In 1976 he wrote The Brownsville Raid (pr. 1976), based on the real-life story of a U.S. Army regiment dishonorably discharged after black soldiers in it were falsely accused of starting a riot in Brownsville, Texas, in 1906. It ran for more than one hundred performances. In 1980 he wrote Zooman and the Sign (pr. 1980, pb. 1982) about violence in black communities. It won two Obie Awards and an Audelco Award for best playwright.

Building upon his previous work and continuing to hone his talents, Fuller wrote A Soldier’s Play in 1981 and won a Pulitzer Prize for it in 1982, along with several other awards, including the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best American play. In 1984 Fuller wrote the screenplay for A Soldier’s Story, an adaptation that starred many of the original cast members of the play, including Denzel Washington.

Fuller went on to write We (pr. 1989), a series of plays featuring characters from the Civil War and postwar periods. In addition to plays, Fuller has written short stories and television and movie scripts that continue to focus on the black experience in the United States.