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Serving Elizabeth Digital Study Guide

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SERVING ELIZABETH

ABOUT THE PLAY

Serving Elizabeth
By Marcia Johnson
Directed by Kimberley Rampersad

Serving Elizabeth House Program

Grade and Curriculum Connections

  • Grade 7+
  • Global Competencies: Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Learning to Learn/ Self-Awareness
  • The Arts
  • English
  • Language
  • Canadian and World Studies
  • Social Sciences and Humanities

Content Advisory for Students

Deals with the impacts of living in a racist society and includes some coarse language.

Synopsis

In Kenya in 1952, Mercy, a restaurant proprietor, is hired to cater the impending visit of Princess Elizabeth, soon to be Queen. In 2015, another story unfolds in London, England, where a young Kenyan-born Canadian, Tia, is working as an intern on a TV drama series about the British royal family - while also pursuing a writing project of her own. These parallel narratives seem only coincidentally connected  - until a surprising twist reveals a deeper relationship between the two. Audiences are certain to enjoy this ingenious contemporary drama that keeps us guessing as it explores issues of colonialism, nationalism and the question of who gets to have a voice.

Themes and Motifs

  • Resistance
    • Subversion
    • Rebellion
    • Reclamation

  • History
    • Re-examining What We Think We Know
    • Shifting and Centring Perspectives
    • Subverting Inequitable Systems

  • Writing
    • Bias, Race and Representation
    • Autonomy and Self-Determination




 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

PRE-SHOW

  • What do you already know about the history of Kenya? The British Monarchy? The connections between the two?
  • With inequitable systems such as monarchies, is it better to change them or do away with them completely? Explain your position.
  • Why do you think people like fiction based on history or true stories? What's the relationship between history and truth?
  • Who decides what goes down in history?
  • What is bias? How can we find and change our biases?

POST-SHOW

  • What surprised you most about the play?
  • In what ways do the characters in the play demonstrate resistance to injustice?
  • Tia's reimagining of the Kenyan story not represented in Maurice's script is fiction, but in what ways does her story provide important truths?
  • Why do you think the actors in this production each played two different characters? What impact did it have on your experience?
  • What does the title of the play mean to you? What do you think the playwright intended with it?
  • In you opinion, which character changed most over the course of the play? Why do you think this is the case?

MINDS ON

Objective: This exercise invites students to respond to representations of history in the same way as the playwright did in writing Serving Elizabeth.

Materials: Computer, television and film access

Directions:

  • The playwright, Marcia Johnson, was inspired to write this play after the anger she felt in watching a lack of representation and erasure of Kenyan voices in the second episode of the first season of the series The Crown.
  • Invite students to choose a historical film or television series to watch.
  • Ask students to watch a scene or excerpt and to notice which characters are foregrounded and which characters are left out or remain silent. Invite them to reimagine and rewrite the scene in a way that highlights those characters.
  • Have students share what they noticed, along with their rewrites, in small groups.
  • Invite students to reflect on the debriefing questions independently, in conversation with a partner or in small groups, or in a written reflection.

Debriefing Questions:

  • What issues of representation were common across your chosen historical scenes?
  • In rewriting the scenes, what changes did you discover about the story that was being told?
  • What does representation mean to you? What differences in terms of representation do you hope to see in future theatre, film and television?

CONNECTION TO THE ARCHIVES

Queen Elizabeth I and other monarchs have appeared in many of our plays before. This crown is from the 1993 production of King John. In reality, crowns like this would be quite heavy and cumbersome to wear. What materials and approaches might Stratford Festival costume designers and prop builders employ so that the actors wearing them on stage can comfortably perform?

ELZ_Crown

Imperial State Crown carried by Nicholas Pennell as King John in King John, 1993. Designed by Ann Curtis. Stratford Festival Archives, PRC_1993_008_0002

The Stratford Festival's Archives maintains, conserves and protects recent and historical records about the Festival and makes those materials available to people around the world. Our multi-media archival holdings date from 1952 and extend through to contemporary materials. We house correspondence, production records, Board minutes, photography, design artwork, scores, audio-visual records, costumes, props and set decoration, press releases and other promotional materials: these document the processes that bring a production to the stage and reflect all aspects of mounting a play from the administrative to the creative and beyond.  

In addition to visiting the Archives in person, you can explore our online catalogue.

 

RESOURCES

Serving Elizabeth Showstarters

Study Guide PDF Serving Elizabeth  

Contact us to book a streamed viewing of this production for your class: groups@stratfordfestival.ca

 

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TOOLS FOR TEACHERS SPONSORED BY

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PRODUCTION SUPPORT IS GENEROUSLY PROVIDED BYJOHN & THERESE GARDNER AND BY THE TREMAIN FAMILY.


SUPPORT FOR THE FILMING OF PRODUCTIONS IN THE 2021 SEASON IS GENEROUSLY PROVIDED BY RICHARD & MONA ALONZO, THE JOHN AND MYRNA DANIELS CHARITABLE FOUNDATION, THE HENRY WHITE KINNEAR FOUNDATION, MARTIE & BOB SACHS, ROBERT & JACQUELINE SPERANDIO, ALICE & TIM THORNTON AND BY AN ANONYMOUS DONOR.