Michael Bayus – A Man with a Vision
Excerpt From the Drama
About the Lady Jane Grey Drama
Michael Bayus is the writer, producer and director/actor of an audio drama about the Lady Jane Grey, a woman who was queen of England for nine days in 1554. Michael is also a gifted Church organist, freelancing as a Supplying Organist wherever he is needed. He also composes music regularly. He currently lives with his wife, Robin, in Sarasota, Florida, though he has family in Naples, and some of the cast for the Lady Jane Grey drama reside in Naples. Cast members include Rebecca Bronzini, who was formerly featured in Naples Noteworthy: Rebecca Bronzini: The Limelight, Forensic Lights, Light of the World.
Naples Noteworthy learned about his audio drama and thought it would be interesting to do a feature on it. We had no idea that he was totally blind–and had been since birth–until the interview was well underway. His blindness, however, in no way proves to be an obstacle to him. Michael Bayus truly is a man with a vision.
Naples Noteworthy: When did you first become interested in the Lady Jane Grey?
Michael Bayus: Well to answer that question, I’ll have to go all the way back to the beginning.
At the very beginning, I was born in 1952. I was a premature birth, and therefore, I was placed in an incubator. My birth weight was 3 pounds 2 ounces. I went down to 2 pounds 10, and that is probably when I became totally blind. What they didn’t know back then, was that when too much oxygen is fed to the baby, a scar tissue forms over the retina, and blindness occurs.
As a youngster back in the early 1960s, I didn’t enjoy listening to the popular music and such that my peers did, rather, I liked the classical music and educational programs that you could hear on FM back then. When I was 12 years old, my Dad gave me my very own FM radio. That first night that I got it, I took it to bed with me, and I heard a Radio Play that was produced by the BBC about the Lady Jane Grey.
NINE DAYS QUEEN
BBC Home Service Basic, 14 November 1963 19.30
Synopsis: An account of the closing months of the life of Lady Jane Grey
Compiled from contemporary documents by ALISON PLOWDEN
Other parts played by Glyn Dearman , Gordon Faith Kenneth Hyde , Godfrey Kenton Humphrey Morton Frank Partington Stephen Thorne and Gabriel Woolf
Produced by JOE BURROUGHS
Lady Jane Grey: Prunella Scales
The Duke of Northumberland: Francis de Wolff
The Marquis of Winchester: Peter Pratt
The Earl of Arundel: Geoffrey Wincott
Dr Feckenham: Lewis Stringer
Narrator: Richard Hurndall
I liked Prunella Scales’ voice, so therefore, I tried to find everything about the Lady Jane Grey I could find. (Seems like that should be a non sequitur, but it’s not.) When I got to College, I remembered that play, and I called Prunella Scales on the phone, because I was endeavoring to produce my own play about the Lady Jane for a Broadcasting course I was taking. I discovered that the voice that I remembered from the play was an affected voice, and she didn’t really sound like that. She remembered the play though, and we talked about it.
As of the next morning, after I heard the play, I made my Mom go to the local public library, and I made her read everything that we could find about the Lady Jane Grey. I discovered that Jane and I were very much alike, and she became my imaginary friend. When I was in the 6th grade, I discovered that we had a Braille copy of the Symposium by Plato. As I knew Jane liked Plato, and I wanted to be as much like her as I could, I picked it up and began to read it. As I read, I discovered, much to my gob-smacked astonishment, that I was reading and understanding what I read. I remember thinking what I was going to say when it was my turn. It was then, that I “got it.” And I understood that I could read what I wanted to read, as long as it was available in Braille, for myself by myself.
As I invested my time and my emotions in to learning about the Lady Jane, the real energy and essence that is the Lady Jane Grey herself, reached out to me, and we connected. She is no longer my imaginary friend. I believe that she is very real.
I first met the Lady Jane, when I was about 14 years old, and by the time I was 16, I had fallen head over heels in love with her. But I loved her like a 16 year old boy loves a girl or a young woman. I was very lonely because I believed back then, that I could find no young girl alive who was my age who shared my interests, and who could equal Lady Jane’s intellect, and come up to the standard of my fanciful perception of the Lady Jane Grey.
I was smitten. I would sit and daydream, about her. As I had begun to seriously study the organ when I was 8, I was by then well on my way to developing the skills necessary to become a competent Church Organist, and concert Musician. I would daydream about how I would perform some great organ piece, and after it, while the audience was wildly applauding, Jane would rush up to me, (she wasn’t out in the audience, but she was waiting in the wings), throw her arms around me, plant a big kiss, and tell me how wonderful I was. Then all during the afterglow, she would be quick to tell anyone who would listen how proud she was of her husband. On the way home, she would engage me in a conversation about transubstantiation, or some such matter, or, she would tell me how tonight’s performance was better than the last one, or how the last one was better than this one.
By the time I was 18, I had gotten over my crush on her, but I had come to love her very much. I still do. I owe a lot to her, and she has taught me quite a bit through my formative years. I believe that The lady Jane Grey and I have a very strong psychic bond. I love her, and I truly believe that she loves me. The Lady Jane Grey’s spirit reaches out to everyone who shows the least bit of interest in her, and, if she is allowed to, she works through each soul that she touches to accomplish her goal. That goal is to be remembered and understood. I believe in a tangible afterlife, and that when we die, we do not sleep, or pass out of existence.
From about 1966 on, until about 1980 or so, the Lady Jane and I were inseparable. Then after 1980, she went away and left me alone. I remember her very quietly on the anniversary of her death, that is: February 12th. As of 2015, however, she’s back with a vengeance. I can’t get her out of my head or my heart. Whether it’s really the Holy Spirit urging me on, or what ever it is, I feel compelled to know, to love, and to remember her. Being deeply loved by someone gives one strength; loving someone deeply gives one courage.
Naples Noteworthy: Can you give a synopsis of the radio drama?
Michael Bayus: Well it’s not really a radio drama; it is actually 27 plays that are told in sound only.
In my story, Lady Jane is trapped in the 21st century, but willingly. Because she knows that in order to affect change, and to accomplish her goal, she must act. It’s hard for her, because she knows that if she were to tell people that she really is Lady Jane Grey from 1554, people would think she is crazy. So she plays Miss Jane Dudley, and she oversees an exhibit about herself and dresses up in Tudor costume, and enjoys being herself twice a day, morning and afternoon) for her show. As the story goes on, her friend Mike suggests that she put on shows about events in her life as reenactments or vignettes in the evening. She does it all so well that she gains a reputation around town. She is very entertaining, and she talks Tudor History as though she really lived it, because she has. We get to know Jane, as she assumes the role of Miss Jane Dudley, a hard-working modern day young woman, as she interacts with those she meets when she is not working her exhibit. We eavesdrop on the lives of Jane and Mike as they go about there daily tasks. We listen to Jane, as she drives her car, prepares dinner, etc. We listen in on Jane’s conversations with Mike, and as she reads to him from her Literary Remains. We are also members of her audience as she seeks to tell her true life story to the public. Only Mike, and Jess, know for sure just who she really is. Mike is her best friend, and Jess is the caring mother that she never had.
Her goal is to debunk all of the myths and misinformation that has grown up around her since her death. The Victorians really did a number on her, and she has a big job on. My goal in producing this Project, is to remember the Lady Jane Grey as she wanted to be remembered. I believe that The Literary Remains of Lady Jane Grey are carefully conceived performance pieces written by Lady Jane, to make certain that she would be regarded by those of us who come after her as the exemplar Christian, the obedient but outspoken young woman, and the super smart person that she knew she was. Jane was not only sincere but she was intelligent enough to imagine how the world should be better than what she could see around her, yet the sadness of the realization that it would not be in her lifetime did not overpower her.
Lady Jane, as she contemplated her imminent death back in 1554, wrote, “If Justice is done with my body, my soul will find mercy in God.” She also wrote, “Death will give pain to my body for its sins, but the soul will be justified before God.” Then she wrote, “If my faults deserve punishment, my youth at least, and my imprudence were worthy of excuse; God and posterity will show me favor.” It was really important to her that she be remembered in a particular way. The Lady Jane, as she plays the role of Miss Dudley for a Radio Talk Show, tells the interviewer, “In a time when absolute truth has become a casualty of our post-modern lives, when political correctness tolerates everything except strong Christian convictions, the faith of Lady Jane Grey remains a powerful example to all of us.
My project is not a story about the Lady Jane Grey, but it is an attempt to present all of the literary remains of Lady Jane Grey in a unique and different way. It is possible to read everything that she wrote, but I wanted to create the persona that her writings suggest. At least to me, anyway. Since I am totally blind, and have been from birth, I don’t see her, but this way, I can hear her voice.
Naples Noteworthy: Could you give us a brief history of the Lady Jane Grey?
Michael Bayus: Lady Jane Grey was born in April or May of 1536 to Henry and Frances Grey, later Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. Lady Jane was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary. Under the terms of the king’s will, the Suffolk family stood fourth in the line of succession to the throne. Consequently, Lady Jane received a princess’s education. She was precociously intelligent, reading Greek, Latin and Hebrew by the time she was 9 years old, and was a staunch advocate of the newly established Protestant faith. With the accession of the nine-year-old Edward VI in 1547, the English court became embroiled in a sequence of complex power struggles in which Lady Jane, Edward’s cousin, became a pawn.
As Edward’s health deteriorated, the powerful nobleman John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, persuaded the young king to exclude his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth and decree that the crown should instead pass to his cousin Jane. She was then hastily married to the Duke of Northumberland’s son, Lord Guildford. Northumberland’s hold on power seemed secure when Jane was proclaimed queen on Edward’s death in July 1553. However, Mary’s Catholic supporters staged a rising, Northumberland’s army melted away and just nine days later the reign of Queen Jane was over. Although her innocence was never doubted, Jane’s existence as a possible figurehead of Protestant revolt made her an unacceptable danger to the new regime. She was executed on February 12th 1554, aged 17.
Naples Noteworthy: What made you think of doing a radio drama?
Michael Bayus: A script for a radio drama is what I know how to write.
As I produced a radio drama as a Final Exam for a broadcasting course I took while in College, it was my intention maybe to re-do it but with up-to-date scholarship, now that I was consumed by the need to read everything that I could about Lady Jane Grey on the internet. On July 10th of 2015, the idea came to me about Lady Jane coming to live in our time, and I began writing it down. By August 20th, I was finished.
Naples Noteworthy: What is the progress, so far, of the drama? How close is it to being finished?
Michael Bayus: To date, about half of the scripts are recorded and in the can. The Actress who is currently the voice of the Lady Jane, Jeannette Scheibe, has enrolled in Nursing School, and that will take up most all of her time. And rightly so, and since she is a volunteer, I don’t expect that she will be able to devote any time to the project right now. Time will tell. As for when it is finished, Well, theoretically, it will never be finished. As scholarship continues, and we are discovering new things about the Lady Jane Grey all the time, the story will evolve. Since my intent is to upload all of the sound files to a dedicated website, and to make the website interactive so Lady Jane Grey enthusiasts will be able to create their own MP3 files to post on it, the project will actually never really be finished.
Naples Noteworthy: How did you find the voice for Lady Jane Grey?
Michael Bayus: As I say, I finished writing the 27 episodes or chapters of the story around the 20th of August of 2015. I immediately began pitching the project all over Tampa Bay. I thought that maybe I could interest a Theater instructor at one of the many colleges in the area, or that maybe I could interest some young persons who are trying to break in to acting. Even though I could not pay them, I thought that their voices could be heard around the world, and if the right person heard them, that could lead to real work. When I found Jeannette, and I heard her voice, I felt as though I had found my Jane.
Naples Noteworthy: Are you still in need of voices for the drama?
Michael Bayus: Yes. There are characters for whom I still do not have voices. In one of the Episodes, Jane takes Mike out to Dinner, as she wishes to celebrate her promotion, and there is a part for a Server, and a Host. I have potentially cast the Host as a Hostess, but I don’t have a voice for the Server yet. There is also an Episode wherein Miss Dudley interacts with school children. I don’t have voices for the Children yet. I am considering re-writing that one too. Also, I don’t have a voice for Adam.
Naples Noteworthy: Why is the radio drama so important to you?
Michael Bayus: The radio drama is not important. Remembering the Lady Jane Grey is. Lady Jane wrote, “If Justice is done with my body, my soul will find mercy in God.” I contend that Justice has not been done with her body, and her soul is not at rest. It has always been assumed that she was buried in The Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula, but they never found her body, and it can’t be proven that she was ever taken there after her execution.
When you go to visit the Chapel, docents regale you with erroneous facts that could never be substantiated, and date from the Victorian era and the renovation of the Chapel in the 1870s. In February of 1554, the Chapel had been reconsecrated as a Catholic place of worship, and therefore no heretic could be buried from there. There is no mention of what became of the Lady Jane’s body after it lay on the scaffold for some time. It as always been assumed that Father Feckenham went to obtain permission from the local Bishop and the Queen to have Jane interred at St. Peter ad Vincula, but there is no such record of that taking place. Jane may have been buried outside the Tower.
Perhaps she is buried in the Church of Holy Trinity Minories just yards from Tower Hill. That church was a former abbey of the Order of St. Clare that had been closed by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the 1530s. Jane Grey’s father had purchased the former abbey, together with its church, from the crown in the 1540s. Holy Trinity was closed as a place of worship in 1899 and merged with the nearby Church of St Botolph’s-without-Aldgate.
The remains of the Church of Holy Trinity Minories were destroyed during the London Blitz of 1940. All that remains is a small public garden in Tower Hill Terrace over the road from the north outer curtain wall of the Tower, a mere 150 yards from the site of Jane’s execution. Jane’s soul is not at rest, and I contend that she is still striving to accomplish her goal.
The thing is, the Lady Jane was too successful in creating a legacy for herself. While a prisoner in the Tower, she wrote very carefully worded letters and documents, because she knew they would be published in her name after she died. What she didn’t count on was the fascination that she would inspire, and the myth that would grow up around her. The 1986 Movie about her is exactly wrong, for example. Lady Jane Grey, who was almost eighteen in February of 1554, had matured into a remarkable young woman, only averagely attractive, but with far better than average brains. She spoke Latin, Greek, French, Italian and some Hebrew. She was a patron of London’s ‘Strangers Church’ for European Protestant exiles, and was admired among a circle of clever Protestant women that included William Cecil’s intellectual wife, Mildred. There is no evidence to support the later romanticized gossip among Italians that Jane married at the ‘insistence of her mother and the threats of her father’. It was usual for the daughters of the nobility to have an arranged marriage made around their sixteenth birthday, and even if Edward lived, Jane’s marriage had great promise. When her father died his title, Duke of Suffolk, was likely to pass to Jane’s husband Guildford, who was close to her age and remembered by contemporaries as a ‘comely, virtuous and goodly gentleman’.”
Jane was informed that she was named Queen on the 9th of July 1553, three days after her cousin, King Edward VI, died. Once she realized how big the coup was and that it wasn’t going away, Jane accepted her new role and signed many letters as Jane the Queen. This came after Mary had declared herself Queen of England and denounced the coup. But it was expected of Jane to give her signature to important documents and urge others to come to her aide.
However, “The only action which Jane is known to have taken as queen was to deny her husband, Guildford Dudley, the Crown Matrimonial.” Jane had alleged that she had been forced into marriage by her parents and that “relations with her spouse were not good.” Yet other historians have pointed out that it was common of noblemen’s sons and daughters to go into arranged marriages without question, and aware of her position and her lineage, Jane would have known that she had little choice in matters such as these. And being the religious woman she was, marriage was viewed as one of the most important things in a woman’s life. It is possible that Jane might have not liked being married to someone she barely knew, but due to her religious fervor, had come to accept it. But given how kings and queens saw themselves, it is not outside the realm of possibility that Jane might have said this in order to get her way. Queen Elizabeth I would often shift the blame to her councilors and instill guilt on them when she didn’t get her way. Henry VIII was the same, and so many others before them. Jane would die on the 12th of February 1554, after her husband. Jane was made into a passive figure later on, a Protestant martyr who refused to accept the crown, who was the victim of her parents’ abuse.
Think of this distortion as a Snow White washing of Jane. She is the poor royal trapped in the tower, at the mercy of her evil cousin, and older woman, envious of her beauty, and a dangerous mother who is lusting for power and sees her daughter as nothing more than a tool. And while everyone fights one another, poor Jane stays true to herself, unwavering in her faith, choosing death instead of being a sell-out. While this is partly true (Jane was a fervent believer who never wavered in her faith), it is largely made up. Jane had to be seen as the epitome of the good, Christian woman who was submissive, yet defiant when it came to her faith.
During the Victorian age, this myth became bigger and it is one that has endured. Jane was a strong woman, no doubt. One of the most educated women of her time, who was also independent and although she did not covet the crown, once she was in that position, she did her duty to the best of her ability, urging her father, her father-in- law, and many others to rally to her cause and stop Mary. When everyone deserted them, she and her family had no choice but to admit defeat. Jane accepted Mary’s reign, so long as Mary would not bring back Catholicism. When Mary did this, Jane became angry and asked the people to “return to Christ’s war!” Although her outburst might seem inconsequential to us, it didn’t seem to Mary and her councilors. Several urged her to deal with her right away and Mary hesitated to do so, but after the Wyatt Rebellion, Mary sentenced her, her father and her husband to die.
Naples Noteworthy: Have you ever done anything like this before?
Michael Bayus: If you mean producing a Radio Show, and recording for Broadcast? Yes. I have always been interested in Broadcasting, and I took courses both in High School, and in College. I did produce a Radio Play about Lady Jane Grey for a course I took while at Hope College. It was the story of the Lady Jane Grey’s execution in real time, with flashbacks about her life and how she got to that point. In the story, she only had a half an hour to live, and she was remembering. For that project, I got students from the theater department, many of whom were in my Broadcasting class. I got a grade for my play, and they all got grades in their aural interpretation class.
Naples Noteworthy: Tell us a little about your music. When did you first start playing the organ? Do you play someplace regularly now?
Michael Bayus: When I was about 18 months old, my Dad was trying to discern whether he wanted to become a Benedictine Oblate. As he made a few retreats to the Benedictine arch abbey that was near where we lived, he thought that my Mom and I would like to go there to worship one Sunday. We did, and I heard the large organ. I never heard a sound like that, so I cried. My Mom says that it was because I got scared. I think it was because I thought it was beautiful. Jump ahead to when I was 3. My Mom’s Mom worked for a doctor and his wife as their housekeeper. They liked me, and wanted to give me a gift. They didn’t know what to give a blind boy, so they thought a gift of something that made sound would be appropriate. They found this little organ, not knowing of my love for the instrument, and my love for Church Music. I began imitating what I heard in Church. I started organ lessons when I was 8, and about the same time I met the Lady Jane, I began playing in Church. I studied with Virgil Fox when I was 16, got 2 degrees in Organ Performance in College, and had the chance to study with a few renowned concert organists from Europe.
Variations on O Filii et Filiae by Michael Bayus
Naples Noteworthy: What is your philosophy of life? What is most important to you?
Michael Bayus: I bloom where I’m planted. As a TV Baby, I always need to have the TV on while I sleep. I remember waking up early one morning, and there was one of these motivational guys on. I don’t remember just what he was talking about, or what the infomercial was about, but the guy was saying how he was on the way to work one morning, and he thought about happiness, and how to get it. He said, “All of my life, I was trying to achieve happiness. It hit me, that happiness is a decision that we make. Now, I happily achieve.” I couldn’t say it better. That’s what I believe. Yes, the Lady Jane taught me that, too. Many of her contemporaries remarked about her gentle disposition. I believe that she was a “go with the flow” kind of girl. I have told you more than once, in this interview, that I want to be like her. What is important to me is my eternity, which I look forward too. Not only because I’ll get to touch the Lady Jane, and hear her talk, but also because I believe that it is up to us to make for ourselves the best eternity that we can. It is up to us to live not as long as we can, but as well as we can. I think it would be really cool, if I could live as well as I can, and die on my birthday. How cool is that!
Naples Noteworthy: What do you think of the city of Naples? What about Sarasota?
Michael Bayus: I think Naples is great! I enjoy visiting it very much. My sister and her family live there, and my Mom is in an assisted care facility there. She suffers from a Parkinson’s related dementia. Noteworthy is the fact that the Naples Philharmonic boasts of a concert organ, and back in 1990 when the organ was built, it was unusual for a new Concert Hall to have an organ. As for Sarasota, well, we are pretty happenin’ too. We have Theatre, we have Opera, we have Music, we have good eatin’ places too, just like Naples. We don’t have a Concert Organ. When my wife and I come to Naples, we try to find a good local place to eat, and not one that we can get at home.
Naples Noteworthy: Do you have any other hobbies or activities you particularly enjoy—listening to music, collections, etc. ?
Michael Bayus: At one time in my life, when I was a teenager, I collected old 78 RPM records. I also collected organ, and other LP records. Counting all of the records, and tapes, that I had, I probably had close to 5000 sound recordings. When I knew that I was moving to Florida, I put all, or most, of my 78 records on cassette. In 2012, I digitized all of them, so now I can listen to them again. I also like classic TV. Yeah, I’m blind, and I like TV. As I told you, I was a TV baby, and I like to relive those good old days of TV. I like to find out when a particular show was on, and “watch” it again at the same time that it was first on. In other words, if a show was first aired on Monday night at 9:00 PM, in say, 1955, I like to play the show at 9:00 PM on Monday now.
Naples Noteworthy: Do you have any pets?
Michael Bayus: Yes. He is a border terrier. His name is Tyne, after the river that separates Scotland, and England. He is a good doggie.
Naples Noteworthy: Do you have anything else that you feel like you want to say?
Michael Bayus: I would like to publicly acknowledge Deborah Smith Ford (formerly featured in Naples Noteworthy: Deborah Smith Ford – Now An Award-Winning Author) for her willingness and her generosity of spirit in working with me in all of this. When we first communicated, and you put me in touch with her, I called and talked with her. She then jumped in with both feet. She responded so readily, and powerfully, and lovingly and I am most grateful. A big thanks to Becky Brown, Larry Shoop, and Rhonda Brazina for their interest. My Lady Jane Project, I call it Grey Noise, has taken on a life of its own. As I have a few of its sound files recorded now, I am able to pitch my project to Lady Jane Grey enthusiasts all over the world. Here is some of what they say.
Debra Brown, who is the owner of the blog, “English Historical Fiction Authors” says, “Your project sounds interesting. It would be nice to have information about the Lady Jane Grey properly put together. The idea is brilliant.”
Will Lloyd-Regan, Editor-in-chief of the York Historian says, “Sounds really interesting, English RP can be pretty tricky if it’s not natural, I think you’re right though – her accent doesn’t hold it back at all. Really enjoyed the clips, the interview was pretty informative too.”
Peter Tyldesley, Director Bradgate Park Trust (Bradgate Park is where the Lady Jane grew up) says, “What a fantastic and ambitious project you have taken on!”
NOTE: Naples Noteworthy will add an update to this article once the website for the Lady Jane Grey project is up and running.