GENE IN ENGLAND
by Charlotte England
THIS GROUP OF reflections begins in London with John Janoudi, a good man who became our dear friend, especially to Gene, who John saw as a brother. John helped us feel at home from the moment we arrived in London in 1992 for our first Theatre Study Abroad program. John arranged for comfortable flats at 123 Queen’s Gate in South Kensington for our family and forty-plus students for the seven weeks we would be there, absorbing the best theatre experience imaginable. I can never think of our many wonderful experiences in London without the constant and steady presence of John.
Wade Jacoby writes about his jet-lagged introduction to London that made him a convert to British theatre for life. Little did he know that through Gene’s persistence he would attend a performance of Peter Pan by the Shakespeare players at the Barbican just hours after landing at Heathrow Airport, and it’s wonderful to hear from him how much better it was than taking the nap he had hoped for upon arrival. Wade soon learned that following Gene meant action, and that adventure would most likely occur, whether it was theatre, art, or fishing. Wade also discovered the value of focus, pacing, balance, harmony, and understanding.
Tim Slover describes some of the inner workings of a day and weeks working with Gene, from the spontaneous lectures to jet-lagged students on the bus from the airport, to conversations in and out of class, to taking advantage of any teaching moment that could make a difference to the students’ lives. Tim describes how the students learned from Shakespearean plays to view the world with greater understanding, love, and forgiveness for ourselves and other human beings. Tim’s careful preparation and commentary on the contemporary plays our groups attended also made a huge difference to the students when they saw the live performances.
In 1981, Don Marshall was director of BYU’s Study Abroad, with Gene as his assistant. One of the most remarkable things that Gene and I appreciated from our six months together with the Marshalls was how much Don turned our children on to art and literature through the humanities courses he taught at the BYU London center. This has been a gift that has stayed with them throughout their lives. Jean Marshall was an extra bonus with her artistic touch and willingness to go along with our zany schedule even as she cared for her young children. Gene was as delighted as they were when he found an extra ticket to take their son to CATS.
Dian Saderup gives us a candid account of her first time in London with a six-month Study Abroad adventure in 1985. She recounts her discoveries about what it means to take risks and learn to experience and embrace theatre and the arts in London. She starts her story with a rather stirring introduction to the England clan. She not only survives the first meeting after learning she would be sharing a room with our daughters, squeezing out a space on the floor next to two sets of bunk beds and adjusting to different sleep patterns and age differences, but tells how through it all they became fast and lasting friends. She also hints at some of our great times together in our very small kitchen with our knees tucked under a very small table comparing different kinds of butter available to us from the little shop around the corner. We slathered Danish and Dutch and various unsalted English butters from towns like Cornwall and Devon—places we were yet to see—on slices of good bread baked daily in another shop, making biased comments about each one, much to our delight. I also discovered that Dian abhorred mayonnaise.
Allison Pingree’s essay describes a profound experience she had in taking the BYU Colloquium course, “Learning How to Learn,” in which five professors encourage the students to explore, experience, and discuss. Then, Allison joins us for that 1985 six months’ Study Abroad, where she absorbs and relishes London, packing in theatre, art, and helping create a timeline of artists and other luminaries throughout history. I still have that timeline, rolled up but available for reference and reliving great memories. One of the most outstanding performances Allison refers to is her introduction “to the raw beauty of the medieval Mystery Plays.” Her description takes me back to a most unusual theatrical experience that had a profound impact on all of us as we crowded into the modest-sized Cotswold Theatre and were invited to participate in the drama at various moments. Allison captures the scene well.
Colin Bay’s father first introduces a young Colin to Gene with an anecdote, but it’s later, as a BYU freshman, that Colin makes his own discovery of Gene through an Honors conference he attended, where he first began to understand what “proving contraries” truly meant. What he learned from great teachers in the Honors Colloquium also still lingers with him, along with other lessons from his Study Abroad experience. His personal expressions bring tears to my eyes, too.
“On the Run with Gene”
“Waiting With Each Other”
“Gene England and a Ticket to CATS!”
“A Little Trust That Things Do Work Out”
“To Bless Even Broken Things”
“Better Than We Were”