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On Setting

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2014 issue of The Dramatist.

Illustration of playwright Charles Fuller by Allen Todd Yeager
Playwright Charles Fuller. Illustration by Allen Todd Yeager for The Dramatist.

What is setting? It’s defined as; “the space or type of surroundings where something is positioned or where an event takes place” or “the time and place a play, novel or film is represented as happening.” OK, but there is something starchy, hard, and fast about the definition that I don’t like. It feels like the description of a deserted stage, where stagehands voices echo above running lights and empty seats. Something I might play with to create the ‘setting’ but hardly any more than a starting place.

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Monochromatic photo of a black man wearing a plaid shirt who is apparently in conversation with someone on his right
Charles Fuller

(1939-2022) was a member of the Dramatists Guild for over 40 years. He won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Soldier’s Play, which received its Broadway debut in the 2019/2020 season, winning the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.