Pulitzer- and Tony-winning playwright Charles Fuller died of natural causes October 3 at the age of 83 in Toronto. The news was confirmed by a press representative for the 2020 Broadway revival of Mr. Fuller's A Soldier's Play, which is set to embark on a national tour later this year.
A Soldier's Play is Mr. Fuller's best-known work, premiering Off-Broadway in 1981 via Negro Ensemble Company. Set in 1944, the work centers on the murder of a Black Army Sergeant in a racially segregated military and the investigation to uncover the perpetrator. The premiere cast included Adolph Caesar, Denzel Washington, Larry Riley, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Friedman, and Charles Brown in a production that would win Best Off-Broadway Play at the Outer Critics Circle Awards and Best American Play at the New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards, along with an Obie for Distinguished Ensemble Performance. The piece was also awarded the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The play made the jump to the screen as A Soldier's Story in 1984, with Mr. Fuller penning the screenplay. Caesar, Washington, and Riley reprised their stage performances, joined by William Allen Young, Dennis Lipscomb, Howard E. Rollins Jr., and David Alan Grier. The film adaptation would receive Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Caesar, with Mr. Fuller receiving a nod for his screenplay as well.
In the years since, A Soldier's Play has been revived Off-Broadway in 1996 and 2005, finally making it to Broadway in 2020. Ruled a revival despite the production being the work's Broadway debut, the Roundabout Theatre Company production won Best Revival of a Play, with Mr. Fuller winning the award alongside Roundabout since he had not been previously Tony eligible for the work in the Best Play category.
Mr. Fuller was a member of The Negro Ensemble Company, which, in addition to premiering A Soldier's Play, produced his Obie-winning work Zooman and the Sign. Other plays include One Night..., In My Many Names and Days, The Candidate, The Brownsville Raid, We, and Eliot's Coming.
Also an accomplished screenwriter, Mr. Fuller wrote screenplays for CBS, PBS, and Showtime, including The Sky is Gray, A Gathering of Old Men, and Zooman (adapted from Zooman and the Sign), along with segments featured in The Wall and Love Songs.
Mr. Fuller was also a dedicated educator, mentoring young playwrights at Cherry Lane Theatre. His entire body of work was recognized with a Flora Roberts Award from the Dramatists Guild in 2015.
Born March 5, 1939, Mr. Fuller is survived by his wife, Claire Prieto-Fuller, son David Ira Fuller, daughter-in-law, four grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.