A first hand account of Queen Elizabeth’s death, funeral, and the impact on the United Kingdom.
By Madison Sciba
On September 8th, 2022 the BBC announced to the world that the longest reigning British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, passed away. The United Kingdom was thrust into a period of deep sadness and mourning, their beloved Queen ruling no more. Her funeral was held at Westminster Abbey in London on September 19th. Following the service, a procession carried her coffin from Westminster Abbey to Windsor Castle, her final resting place. Reports claim that over one million people lined the streets of central London the day of the Queen’s funeral to pay their respects. I had the great opportunity to be one of those one million people.
The funeral service at Westminster started at 11 am with the procession leaving the Abbey starting at noon. My friends and I took the London Underground (the tube), getting to the city center at 9:30am. The tube was jam packed with people just trying to get to the central stations and rushing to the road the procession would come down. After being told by an officer that Saint James’s Park along the route was at capacity, us and about a hundred other people were sent 2 miles through the city to Hyde Park. Once there, we were told that Hyde Park, where they had viewing screens up, was also at capacity. We were told to stand on either side of the road that ran parallel to the park, leaving us standing right behind the French embassy.
For hours we stood there shoulder to shoulder with people from all over the world, all of us there to experience the historical event. I could barely see the road, relying on my 6ft friend to tell me what was going on. Sick of the crowd, one guy decided to climb a power control box, getting the best view of the road. “SHE'S COMING!” He screamed the second the hearse appeared in his sights. Around 1:40 pm, after standing in that crowd for almost 4 hours, I saw a few second glimpse of the Queen’s casket and the Imperial State Crown that rested on top.
Now, over a month later, the UK is still feeling the impact of the Queen’s death. Almost 2 months into his reign, King Charles III has already seen the resignation of a Prime Minister, rapidly growing inflation, the devaluation of the British pound, tension within the royal family, and a series of destructive protests. PM Liz Truss resigned after a record short 45 days in office after her economic reforms caused horrible problems for the British economy. One ongoing joke in the United Kingdom was a live stream that was set up featuring a head of lettuce in a blonde wig, mocking Truss. The goal of the live stream was to see which would last longer, Truss or the head of lettuce in a wig. Funnily enough, the lettuce had a longer shelf life than the former prime minister.
Now that we are starting to see an ease of COVID precautions and worries, Saint Mary’s study abroad program is back, and I am one of 4 students currently studying at Queen Mary University of London and there are many other SMC students studying at other universities all over the world. Studying abroad has given me the opportunity to live through these historical events as they are unfolding. Living in Britain at the very beginning of the reign of a new monarch is an incredible experience, British monarchs play such an important role in not just the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, but also in the world. Queen Elizabeth II, who ruled for 70 years, was a leading figure on the world stage and it is a great opportunity that I have to see King Charles III step into the role of king and try to live up to his mother’s legacy.
With Saint Mary’s upcoming Fall production right around the corner, I sat down with senior Xavier Romero to find out more about the production and what sets it apart from performances in years past.
By Ryan Ford
What is your name, major, and graduating year?
“My name is Xavier Romero (He/Him). I am a Theatre and Performance Major and a Sociology Minor, and I will be graduating this coming spring in 2023.”
What is the Fall production called, and what is it about?
“The Fall production this year is called The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht and is translated into English by none other than our director for the show, Domenique Lozano. In essence, the play is about a young girl who finds a child during war times. She is forced to take care of this child, which already possesses great difficulty on its own, but she runs into so many different problems throughout the play. She encounters many different evil characters and even when she meets decent people, no one will help her through the journey. This young girl is forced to persevere throughout this journey and save this child from the evils of the world during the war.”
How does this production differ from previous Saint Mary's productions you have been involved in?
“This production greatly differs from other productions that I have been in because I am actually playing the antagonist for the first time in my acting career. And not just the kind of forgivable antagonist that we can feel for, one of my characters is just an evil and cruel guy. I am also playing music within this production in addition to my acting, which has posed difficulties for me in trying to balance everything out. But it has actually been pretty refreshing playing guitar in front of a crowd again. I haven't performed guitar in front of a crowd since 2017, when I helped perform The White Album by The Beatles at the Crest Theatre at Sacramento Preparatory, Music Academy. On top of those aspects, this play is different in every way. It does have comedic moments, but there is always this sense of somberness in the air and doom and gloom, so the vibe is very different from what I have worked on in the past.”
What roles and characters do you play in this production? How would you describe those characters within the context of the show?
“I play multiple roles, but the most prominent ones are as The Corporal and The Fat Prince. Both of the characters are antagonists in the show, and their actions are what lead the play into the events that really put the play into motion, specifically The Fat Prince. As I see him, The Fat Prince represents a man whose main goal has always been about gaining and maintaining power. He always wants more and more, regardless of how many people get killed and how many people suffer, and his power is what leads him to evil. The Corporal is a different type of evil, he is an army man who represents everything evil about war and the atrocities that are committed. He has no regard for human life and he loves hurting people.”
What has it been like preparing and rehearsing for this show?
“The rehearsals have been rough because there are so many moving parts in the play, every single cast member is playing multiple characters, singing, and constantly moving things on and off stage. Preparing has been a lot of work because this play is taking a lot of time out of our days. It can be hard to balance school, life, social life, work life, and on top of it all contributing nearly 24 hours a week to the rehearsal process. But we all do this because every cast member deeply cares about theatre and would actually contribute more time to theatre if possible. It just goes to show how dedicated the entire cast is.”
Who is the director of the show, and what is it like working with them?
“Domenique Lozano is a very different director to work with. She is very clear on the kind of vision she wants and is not afraid to keep her vision clear. At the same time, she has been very open about cast members' opinions on props and placement of material on stage. She also gives the actors leeway to make the character they have whatever we want it to be. [Domenique] gives us the imagination and freedom of exploring our characters.”
If you had to pick one reason for why Saint Mary's students should go see The Caucasian Chalk Circle, what would you say?
“I think it tells a story that students will be left questioning long after the play is over, not to mention it is a very gripping story where goodness triumphs against evil. I feel it is what people need during these negative times we are living in.”
When are your performances?
“Our performances will take place between November 3-6: November 3 at 8PM, November 4 at 6PM, two shows on November 5 at 2PM and 8PM, and November 6 at 2PM.”
For tickets and more information: https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/Caucasian-Chalk-Circle
Madison Sciba '24,