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Fuller, Charles(1939–) - Playwright, screenwriter, Black Theater, Fulfilling the Dream, Chronology

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Best known for A Soldier’s Play , Charles Fuller was the second African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize. Fuller has written compelling social drama revolving around African American life in society. His works encompass the full range of human behavior and emotion.

Charles Fuller was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 5, 1939. Being raised in a racially mixed neighborhood and attending integrated parochial schools provided Fuller with the self confidence he needed to pursue a writing career. Fuller’s love of the written word began early in his life. As a young child, his father established his own printing business. Fuller assisted his father with proofreading galleys. The first play Fuller saw was performed in Yiddish. Fuller did not understand a word, but he was profoundly moved by what he saw.

Another influence on Fuller was the time he spent at the public library reading. Most books he read perpetuated negative stereotypes of African American culture. Reading widely made Fuller want to become a writer, so he could write about the black experience as it really is.

In 1956, Fuller began attending Villanova University located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania majoring in English. But he was discouraged from pursuing his dream of becoming a writer by his professors. Additionally, the school magazine refused to publish his stories. In 1958, Fuller dropped out of college and joined the army.

After his discharge from the army in 1962, Fuller returned to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and married Miriam Nesbitt. Fuller and his wife had two sons (Charles Fuller III and David). For several years, Fuller had a variety of jobs; he was a bank loan collector, a counselor for minority students at Temple University where he later became a lecturer of black studies, and a city housing inspector. Fuller returned to night school at La Salle College in 1965 where he graduated in 1968 with a B.A. degree.

Black Theater

Fuller continued to write short stories and essays, primarily in dialogue. These writings became the basis for his plays. While working as a housing inspector Fuller realized that the black communities were in bleak circumstances. In a bid to strengthen and support these communities, Fuller co-founded the Afro-American Arts Theatre in Philadelphia in 1969. Much of Fuller’s early work in the theater were sketches based on community issues that he observed while serving as a housing inspector.

Over the next several years, the Afro-American Arts Theatre staged many of works by Fuller, including The Sunflowers , which were six one-act plays, and The Rise , which depicted the story of Marcus Garvey in four acts.

Fulfilling the Dream

As Fuller’s plays became more intricate, he gained the attention of the McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey. The McCarter Theater commissioned Fuller to write the play The Village: A Party in 1968. This play was a study of racial integration and conflict. The Village: A Party presents an idealistic look at racial integration that eventually erodes in a community in which all the couples are interracial when an African American man falls in love with an African American woman and is killed. This play was so well received that it ran off-Broadway a year later at Tambellini’s Gate Theater. The play was re-titled The Perfect Party in 1969. Due to the success of this play, Fuller decided to move his family to New York and become a professional playwright.



Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 5

1956–58 Attends Villanova University

1959–62 Serves in the army

1962 Marries Miriam A. Nesbitt

1965–68 Attends LaSalle College

1967–71 Co-founds and co-directs the Afro-American Arts Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1968 Completes first play, The Village: A Party

1975 Receives a Rockefeller Foundation fellow; publishes The Brownsville Raid

1976 Receives the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship

1981 Releases A Soldier’s Play ; receives two Obie awards and the Audelco Award for Zooman and the Sign

1982 Receives a Pulitzer Prize, New York Drama Critics Award, the Audelco Award, Theatre Club Award, and the Outer Circle Critics Award for A Soldier’s Play

1984 A Soldier’s Story is nominated for an Academy Award for best picture and screenplay

1995 Zooman and the Sign adapted into a movie entitled Zooman

Next, Fuller wrote two plays for the New Federal Theatre: In My Many Names and Days in 1972 and The Candidate in 1974. In 1974 Fuller began a long and successful relationship with the Negro Ensemble Company. However, his first play for the ensemble ( In the Deepest Part of Sleep ) was not well received.

By this time, Fuller had reached another turning point. He wanted to go beyond social issues to bring attention to the explosive racial strife in the United States. He wanted to put a different face on the common stereotypes. Fuller wrote a play that depicted the historical tragedy of the shooting spree that took place in Brownsville, Texas in 1906. An all African American army regiment was accused of the incident. The entire regiment was dishonorably discharged by President Theodore Roosevelt. The play, The Brownsville Raid , not only brought to light the unwavering loyalty the soldiers felt for their country, but their faith in the army. Fuller had written elegantly of the betrayal the soldiers experienced. The Brownsville Raid ran for 112 performances. This play marked the first time Fuller wrote about the military. In 1972, the army overturned the dishonorable discharge.

Although Fuller’s next play, Zooman and the Sign , received mixed reviews, it garnered two Obie Awards. In 1995, Zooman and the Sign was adapted into a movie entitled Zooman .

Fuller’s most noted play, A Soldier’s Play , was written as a tribute for his friend Larry Neal, who was a poet, playwright, and critic. A Soldier’s Play ran for more than a year off-Broadway. This work was such a successful work that Fuller was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1982. Fuller adapted this play for the motion picture, A Soldier’s Story .

Fuller, Solomon Carter(1872–1953) - Pathologist, psychiatrist, Chronology [next] [back] Fuller, Alfred - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: Alfred Fuller, Social and Economic Impact

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