AMERICAN THEATRE | Charles Henry Fuller Jr.: Playwright, Collaborator, Buddy

Charles Henry Fuller Jr. (Picture by Jerry Mosey, Related Press.)

Charles Henry Fuller Jr., Obie, Tony, and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, and co-founder of the Afro-American Arts Theatre in Philadelphia, died on Oct. 3. He was 83.

A Remembrance

In the course of the rehearsal means of the Negro Ensemble Firm’s premiere manufacturing of A Soldier’s Play at Theatre 4 in New York Metropolis, (I used to be the manufacturing supervisor-stage supervisor), I used to be attentive as Charles and Doug usually mentioned the ending of the play all through a really brief, intense, however on the similar time, relaxed rehearsal course of. On the finish of the ultimate run-through previous to the primary preview, recalling their conversations, I spotted that the difficulty of the ending of the play had not been resolved. 

The solid took their dinner break. I requested Charles Brown (Captain Davenport) and Peter Friedman (Captain Taylor) to return to the theatre a half hour earlier. Doug had instructed me he and Charles could be on the NEC workplace within the Fairness Constructing of 46th Road and seventh Avenue. I known as the workplace and instructed the receptionist to place me by way of to Doug instantly. I instructed him “I used to be on my method there. Don’t depart! Charles and also you by no means resolved the ending of the play!” After a beat of silence, I heard, “Oh sh**!”

I grabbed the manufacturing guide from the stage supervisor’s desk and ran from the theatre to the workplace—rush hour had began—it was quicker than taking a cab. After I arrived, I known as Charles and Doug into my workplace. I reminded them that the ultimate line of Davenport’s monologue was the final line of the play: “The lads of the 221st Chemical Smoke Producing Firm? All the outfit: officers

and enlisted males had been worn out within the Ruhr Valley throughout a German advance.”

Charles and Doug had a passionate dialogue concerning the implications of that line being the tip of the play.

“Now what?”, I requested, taking a look at Charles and Doug. I put a bit of paper into the IBM Selectric typewriter and waited, fingers poised on the house keys. Doug lit one other cigarette. Paradoxically, he was already smoking one. He checked out Charles. Charles started dictating the ultimate scene. I typed quickly, fingers flying. Doug nodded, puffed, and grunted, providing a suggestion right here and there. I instructed Charles and Doug to come back to the theatre in thirty minutes, and ran again to the theatre, copies of the brand new scene in hand. I gave Charles and Peter the brand new ending of the play and instructed them to “Memorize it now! Doug and Charles are coming over to dam the scene and reply any questions.” Thank the powers that be Charles Brown and Peter Friedman had been very fast research. They memorized the scene. Doug staged it. We built-in the technical points. Charles Fuller accredited, and the remainder is historical past . . .


               I used to be improper, Davenport – concerning the bars – the uniform – about Negroes

               being in cost.

                              (Slight pause.)

               I’ll guess I’ll have to get used to it.


               Oh, you’ll get used to it –you possibly can wager your ass on that. Captain – you’ll

               get used to it.


Within the foyer of Theatre 4 after the primary preview efficiency of A Soldier’s Play., Charles pulled me apart and mentioned “Thanks for remembering. I owe you.” In 2013, Charles requested me to direct his new play, One Night time—a co-production between The Cherry Lane and Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre firms. A darkish and disturbing work about sexual assault and PTSD within the navy, Charles was quietly very passionate concerning the play and its significance.

I shared stimulating dinner dialog after an early preview efficiency of One Night time with Charles, Claire (his spouse), and the late Paul Carter Harrison who was visiting NYC from Panama. Paul was a longtime good friend and colleague of Charles. He was additionally my former professor at Howard College, moreover, I had manufacturing supervised or directed a number of of his performs on the Negro Ensemble Firm. All of us talked concerning the state of the world, the state of black artwork, and finally One Night time. By way of a really concise and stimulating evaluation of the play amongst all of us, Charles realized that the play could be stronger as an prolonged one-act versus the two-act construction we had been presently previewing. We instituted the required adjustments within the following rehearsals and previews. The play opened as an prolonged one-act and was consequently a a lot stronger play. I’ll all the time be humbled by Charles’ openness and willingness to interact within the collaborative course of and place his belief in me as a director of his work. The reunion and renewal of friendship all through the belief of One Night time, conjure recollections of conversations about African People within the navy—a major trope in his physique of labor. He usually referenced The Brownsville Raid and A Soldier’s Play, however he by no means spoke of his personal navy service. I revered his selection.

Charles knew the language of actors and administrators. We regularly spoke concerning the ardour required by actors to entry that hidden backbone of a personality. Remembering and witnessing conversations he had with a really younger Giancarlo Esposito, in addition to with veteran actress Mary Alice, Charles helped them faucet into that keenness, enabling them to offer startling, revelatory, and fearsome performances in Zooman and the Signal.

As extra recollections proceed to flood my thoughts, I take consolation in understanding that I walked with a creative large. Charles was a pricey good friend, and collaborator, who touched multitudes. I smile as I think about the Ancestors greeting Charles Henry Fuller, Jr. with shouts of “Properly Carried out! My Brother! Properly Carried out!”

Clinton Turner Davis (he/him) is a director, educator, dramaturg, playwright, manufacturing supervisor, and humanities advisor. He was the manufacturing supervisor of the unique NEC manufacturing of A Soldier’s Play, and its subsequent 22-month nationwide tour. Mr. Davis additionally directed the primary NYC revival of A Soldier’s Play for the Valiant Theatre in 1996. 

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