Charles Fuller, the transcendent playwright best known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning play A Soldier’s Play, has died. He was 83.
Fuller’s death was confirmed by his wife, Claire Prieto-Fuller, according to The New York Times.
Movie fans may be more familiar with the 1981 play that was made into the Oscar-nominated A Soldier’s Story three years later that starred Denzel Washington, David Alan Grier and Robert Townsend. Fuller also wrote the screenplay for the film.
The movie smoldered with rancid racism that pervaded a Southern military base during World War II and was connected to the murder of a Black Army sergeant.
“I’d just like to be considered a playwright fortunate enough to have written a ‘hit,’ and who wants to keep on writing plays that break through the wall,″ he told The New York Times in 1982.
Grier, who starred in both the film and stage version of Fuller’s play, said being involved with the masterpieces were among the greatest pleasures of his adult life.
“It has been my greatest honour [sic] to perform his words on both stage and screen, his genius will be missed,” Grier tweeted.
Rest n Peace Charles Fuller author of A Soldiers Play and the Oscar nominated screenplay of A Soldiers Story. Pulitzer Prize recipient and amazing and wonderful artist. It has been my greatest honour to perform his words on both stage and screen, his genius will be missed 🙏🏾🕊 pic.twitter.com/F3uvYHBhZW
— David Alan Grier AKA #LeonMusk (@davidalangrier) October 4, 2022
In its 2005 review of the play, The New York Times wrote that Fuller “uses clean-lined conventions to elicit disconcertingly blurred shades of racism, resentment and self-hatred among Black men waiting to fight in a white man’s Army. These feelings are messy, confusing, contradictory.”
Fuller was born in Philadelphia, graduated from Villanova University and then joined the Army in 1959 with tours of duty in Japan and South Korea.
While he was crafting his breakthrough play, “The Perfect Party,” Fuller was earning a living as a housing inspector in Philadelphia when the McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey, released the play.
Fuller also penned plays for the Negro Ensemble Company, and his works were hosted at New Federal Theater and Henry Street Settlement. Fuller went national when he wrote “The Brownsville Raid,” which detailed the story of Black soldiers who were dishonorably discharged in 1906 after they were wrongly accused of murder. They were later exonerated of the crimes, The Times reports.
When he was queried as to why many of his plays centered on Blacks in the military, Fuller’s response spoke to both the aspirations and the despair of African Americans in the U.S.:
“Historically, it’s the only place where Black men have risen equal to White men,” he told Newsday in 1988.
Fuller is survived by his wife, a son, David, a daughter-in-law, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Below, Fuller discusses his career with CUNY TV.