Realism is a mid-19th century style seeking to present an objective and an unprejudiced record of the customs, ideas, and appearances of contemporary society. They involve spontaneity, harmonious colors, and subjects from everyday life with a focus on human motive and experience. The costumes are authentic, the characters use vernacular dialogue or everyday speech and settings are often bland or deliberately ordinary. Realism is important to drama because the move towards a more authentic form, realistic plots, and characters that are believable, allowed the everyday person in the audience to identify with the situations and characters on stage.
Two examples of theatrical realism include August Wilson’s Fences, and Nilo Cruz’s Anna in the Tropics.
August Wilson was born from a white father and an African-American mother. Through this connection to both cultures he is able to realistically portray the complexity of African American attitudes towards themselves and their past, the conflict between black and white cultures, and attitudes of the time.
His writing is influenced by the rhythms and patterns of the blues and the speech of black neighborhoods. In 1986 Wilson wrote Fences, A story that focused on the lives of black tenement dwellers in Pittsburgh in the 1950s. The main character is a father that takes great pride in his ability to support his family but is frustrated because he believes that he deserves a better occupation and has been denied that opportunity because of his race. Nilo Cruz a Cuban American playwright, won a Pulitzer prize in 2003 for Anna in the Tropics. The story is set in 1929 and the main character is Anna, a working mother with a Cuban background. The story focuses on Anna and her coworkers at a cigar rolling factory in Tampa, Florida. Influenced by August Wilson, Cruz focuses on his own community, develops strong female characters, and realistically depicts the varieties of Hispanic experience.