The idea of modern theatre reflecting the everyday interactions between people in a realistic way is not a new concept. Realism in theatre has its roots in the Romantic Period with works by Goethe (Faust) and Schiller (William Tell) during the 1790’s. The movement of realism in theatrical performances reflected the influences of talking motion pictures during the late twenties and thirties reaching its zenith with gritty modern films of the sixties and seventies. Audiences demanded truth in performances and felt over-acted dramatizations of characters from actors were false. The modern vs. traditional method of acting is a central conflict for Stage Fright’s main characters Mitzi Crenshaw and her husband Denis Michelson. They are struggling to hold on to the traditional theatrical performance styles of yesterday while their growing public seeking realism. This is reflected in the extremely critical reviews of antagonist F.F. Charnick who champions the modern art form and feels that Mitzi and Denis are “representations of a by-gone era.”.
It is due to the continuous written and verbal criticism from F.F. Charnick that Mitzi seeks revenge and vindication. While Denis’ motives are murky, he does shows an understanding of having to “move with the times” Something we all struggle with when we realize our ways or thoughts are no longer relevant or outdated.