Lite Nite | Serving Elizabeth

Wednesday June 19, 2024 at 6:30 pm Pacific Time

Almost Live episode #155

A drama that explores the story of colonialism and who gets to tell it.

The story takes place in two time periods in two periods: 1952 in Kenya and in 2015 in London, England. In 1952 in Kenya, Mercy a restaurant owner, is hired to cook for the impending visit of Princess Elizabeth (soon to be Queen) and the Duke of Edinburgh.
In 2015, in London, England, Tia a young Kenyan-born Canadian, is working as an intern on a TV drama series about the British royal family (think The Crown) – while also pursuing a writing project of her own.
In both the 1952 section and the 2015 section the story initially is being told and managed by white voices to the exclusion of black voices. And then Mercy in Kenya 1952 and Tia in London in 2015 decide to correct the exclusion.

Written by Marcia Johnson

Almost Live Lite Nites are more casual presentations of accessible content. This audio play is presented with the kind permission of CBC’s PlayMe Podcast.

This event will not be recorded.

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“Richly detailed with urgent ideas about representation, privilege and cultural insensitivity, Serving Elizabeth is a gem.” -NOW Magazine

“Remember that episode of The Crown when Elizabeth and Phillip visit Kenya in 1952? King George VI dies while they’re away, leaving young Liz to become Queen of England at the ripe old age of 25.

Jamaica-born Johnson was unhappy with the short shrift black people received in the episode. Being a theatre artist, she did more than complain — she wrote a play.

Serving Elizabeth pivots back and forth between Elizabeth’s royal visit to Kenya and the contemporary experiences of a young Kenyan-Canadian woman working as an intern on a Crown-like TV series in London.

Rather than serving as backdrops for royal shenanigans, black characters take centre stage here. The results are fresh and intriguing.” -Times Colonist

About the Playwright

Marcia Johnson was born in Jamaica and has lived in Canada since the age of six. She has been a theatre artist in Toronto for over thirty years. Her 5-minute play A Magical Place written for Zoom is available on YouTube as part of the National Transformations Project produced by the National Arts Centre and Stratford Festival. She directed the two-hander starring Kaleb Alexander and Amaka Umeh.

Serving Elizabeth, in which she also acted, had its world premiere at Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops in February 2020. It has been published by Scirocco Drama. The play was a co-production with Thousand Islands Playhouse. The run at that theatre has been postponed until sometime after the coronavirus pandemic.

Other plays include Binti’s Journey, an adaptation of the teen fiction novel The Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis (Theatre Direct Canada/Manitoba Theatre for Young People/Black Theatre Workshop); Say Ginger Ale (SummerWorks Festival and adapted from her award-nominated CBC Radio Drama); Courting Johanna (Blyth Festival) based on Alice Munro’s “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage,” and Late, an original piece produced by Obsidian Theatre Company.

Marcia has participated in playwrights’ groups at Thousand Islands Playhouse, Obsidian Theatre Company, Theatre Passe Muraille as well as Ontario Arts Council Playwright’s Residencies at Blyth Festival and Roseneath Theatre. She also participated in Tapestry New Opera’s Composer-Librettist Laboratory twice. Short operas which came from them include My Mother’s Ring (Dora nomination with composer Stephen A. Taylor); Cinderello; Playing Ball and Lullaby at the Shore. Her training also includes a musical theatre workshop with William Finn at Canadian Stage Company and the Siminovitch Prize Playwriting Master Class with Carole Frechette. She took a second Master Class with Ms. Frechette at Playwrights Workshop Montreal. Marcia’s second collaboration with Stephen Taylor, Paradises Lost, based on the Ursula K. Le Guin novella had excerpted concert performances at Reed College (Third Angle Ensemble) in Portland, Oregon and at The Gershwin Hotel in New York.  Paradises Lost had its premiere at University of Illinois. Lastly, it had a concert performance and Musical Works in Concert during the SummerWorks Festival.

CBC Radio Drama writing credits include Wifely Duty and The Revival Meeting (Sounds Like Canada); Say Ginger Ale (The Round Up) and Perfect on Paper (Sunday Showcase and Monday Night Playhouse). Marcia was a member of Blyth Festival’s 2018 acting company with lead roles in The New Canadian Curling Club and 1837: The Farmers’ Revolt

TV appearances include American Gods, American Gothic and the Disney TV movie The Swap.
Marcia Johnson is a core member of Got Your Back Canada; a juror and dramaturge for Ergo Pink Fest; co-founder of the CASA (Canada/South Africa) mentorship award and a member of the senior advisory board of Women Playwrights International.

Most recently, she became a mentor for Loose Tea Music Theatre’s new BIPOC Composer Librettist Development Program. 

Marcia started reading children’s books online in April 2020 as a pandemic project. As of this writing, she has read over 200 books to children and adults alike.