(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The Village: A Party is a two-act play that was first produced in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1968, then produced five months later in New York City in 1969 under the ironic title The Perfect Party. It is an important early play for Fuller because it raises questions of black awareness that resurface in A Soldier’s Play. The cast consists of ten characters: five couples, husbands and wives who have founded an integrated, racially mixed community. They come together to celebrate the birthday of their charismatic leader—who, it turns out, has fallen in love with a black woman and wants to leave the white woman he has married.

The other couples are shocked. They see their interracial experimental community as an apparent success, and they are afraid of what will happen to the community’s image if they allow their leader to defect from his dream and betray the principles upon which the community was founded. To protect the purity of the experiment, the other couples murder the leader at the birthday party, then insist that his white widow marry another black man.

The play questions the ideal of integration as a realistic solution to the problem of race by suggesting that integration can, in fact, magnify emotional tension. The individual is made subservient to the community in this play, and the idea of a marriage based upon love is replaced by the notion that one must sacrifice all to satisfy the ideal of integration; the individual will is not to be tolerated. As in A Soldier’s Play, some characters are attempting to force others to live by their notions of what may be considered right.

As Dan Sullivan wrote in his review of the Princeton production for The New York Times (November 13, 1968), “Utopia has become not just a ghetto but a cell-block.” The play was controversial in what it had to suggest about miscegenation and also in what it suggested about ideologues so determined to change the world by their example that the life of an individual was deemed inconsequential. In this play, Fuller demonstrated a courageous tendency to question ideals that might be disturbing to both white and black audiences.

The Village: A Party Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Anadolu-Okur, Nilgun. Contemporary African American Theater: Afrocentricity in the Works of Larry Neal, Amiri Baraka, and Charles Fuller. New York: Garland, 1997.

Banham, Martin, ed. The Cambridge Guide to World Theatre. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Baraka, Amiri. “The Descent of Charlie Fuller into Pulitzerland and the Need for African-American Institutions.” Black Literature Forum 17 (Summer, 1983): 51-54.

Draper, James P., ed. Black Literature Criticism. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1992.

Fuller, Charles. “Pushing Beyond the Pulitzer.” Interview by Frank White. Ebony 38 (March, 1983): 116.

Fuller, Charles. “When Southern Blacks Went North.” Interview by Helen Dudar. The New York Times, December 18, 1988, p. C5.

Harriot, Esther. “Charles Fuller: The Quest for Justice.” In American Voices: Five Contemporary Playwrights in Essays and Interviews. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1988.

Savran, David. In Their Own Words: Contemporary American Playwrights. New York: Theater Communications Group, 1988.