What are the similarities between A Soldier's Play and A Soldier's Story?

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There are many similarities between A Soldier's Story and A Soldier's Play, as the former is the film adaptation of the latter. One such similarity is the depiction of Sergeant Waters, who is, in both versions, a ruthless leader full of self-hate.

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Since the film called A Soldier's Story is an adaptation of A Soldier's Play , there are going to be many similarities. Though the technical elements involved in the story's film production and those involved in its stage production are different, the major characters, themes, and plot points are the...

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same. When discussing the two versions' similarities, you can narrow your focus based on what you find most intriguing about the film or the play. For example, you can discuss how thecharacterization of Sergeant Vernon Waters is fairly similar in both versions of the story.

In both A Soldier's Story and A Soldier's Play, Waters is portrayed as a light-skinned Black sergeant who has internalized white racist notions about Southern Black people. In both versions, Waters is intelligent, cunning, and ambitious; he has a deep hatred for Black men from the rural South, whom he feels embody racist caricatures of the past and reflect poorly on him. Waters is a cruel and oppressive leader and belittles many of the Black soldiers he oversees. In the film and play, Waters has a keen disdain for Private C.J. Memphis, whose happy-go-lucky nature and vernacular speech infuriate him. Waters torments Memphis in both versions of the story, to the point that Memphis commits suicide.

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What are some of the similarities or differences between the play and the film A Soldier's Story?

A Soldier's Play is a Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play written by Charles Fuller that was originally performed by the Negro Ensemble Company off Broadway between 1981 and 1983. It spawned the critically acclaimed film A Soldier's Story, released in 1984, and a new revival of the play on Broadway in 2020.

Between all of these versions of both play and movie, the overall story, plot, and characters have remained the same. The setting is World War II at a time just before Blacks and white people were able to fight alongside each other. A Black sergeant, Waters, is murdered in 1944 in Louisiana, and local whites are immediately suspected. Washington sends a Black Army lawyer, Captain Davenport, to investigate, and it turns out he's the first Black officer many of the white officers have ever seen.

In the modern play adaptation, Blair Underwood plays the role of Davenport, and just like Howard E. Rollins in the film version, drives the story with his cool-headed interrogation of Black privates and white officers on the base. Similarly, David Alan Grier plays the stage version of Waters, whom Adolph Caesar portrayed in the movie version, revealed in a series of flashbacks as a self-loathing Black man whose despicable nature has given almost everybody a reason to kill him, from the local Klansmen to his own soldiers.

Themes of racism, disharmony, and inequality abound in both the stage and film versions of this classically structured whodunit; however, the nuances in how the stories are told and the audiences for whom they were produced reveal subtle differences. The modern-day version of the play creates allegories that allude to today's heated political climate on race relations.

The temporal structure is also slightly different between each version, with the film using a straightforward juxtaposition between present day and flashbacks while the play keeps Davenport as a storyteller throughout, weaving in and out of past and present-day narratives. Moreover, the nature of the play means audiences watch a wide view of the action from afar while the movie relied on lots of close-up shots to focus audiences on character instead of plot.

All told, the movie and play versions seem to have far more in common than not, but the starkest differences are in how the directors use various storytelling devices to manipulate the audience’s sense of the world, whether it be playing with time, allegories, or creative use of the camera lens.

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How are the stage and film versions of A Soldier's Play similar and different?

Most audiences familiar with both the stage and cinematic versions of Charles Fuller's wartime story would probably observe that the film is relatively faithful to its source. In most cases throughout Hollywood history, filmmakers have seen the need to make major changes in their adaptations of literary material. Norman Jewison's film takes advantage of the resources of the cinema without disrupting or falsifying the basic plot and themes of Fuller's masterpiece, and this is perhaps the chief reason that the film is so striking and powerful.

That said, something is gained and something is lost in this transition. In the film, the camera moves from place to place, literally showing multiple settings such as the exterior scene of Sgt. Waters's death. The story and the events leading up to the murder of Waters are shown largely in flashbacks in which the settings are literal and realistic, as with Waters's appearing in the night to CJ in the jail cell. In the play the same events are shown, but in blended scenes where Davenport's interrogations of the men fade seamlessly into the antecedent events of Waters's interactions with the men in his platoon, and the gradual uncovering by Davenport of the mystery at the play's core.

In the play, the characters such as Davenport are able to soliloquize in a way that would not seem natural in film. This, too, has its advantages and disadvantages. By its nature, a play can be more "cerebral" than a film, allowing the audience to get inside the minds of the characters, while in film there is an inevitable "distancing." But the experience in the theater is therefore in some sense less vivid, not conveying the naturalistic immediacy of film. At the same time, the playwright can project a directness of thought and emotion, as the characters talk straight to the audience. On stage there is, as well, a fluidity between present and past that can't be achieved in film. In the scene where Waters startlingly reveals the rationale for his frame-up of CJ, Fuller has a solitary light shine on him on stage, as if Waters is addressing all of humanity and revealing his inner soul not merely to his victim, CJ. But simultaneously, the film perhaps more strikingly gets across the devastating impact this speech has on CJ himself that leads to his suicide, especially given the superlative acting of Adolph Caesar as Waters and Larry Riley as CJ.

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