Clinton’s Jefferson Mays: Now a Singular Talent

Jefferson Mays remembers he was a teenager growing up in Clinton when he went to New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre to see its 1982 production of The Front Page starring Brian Dennehy and Bruce Davidson.

“I was especially taken with a wonderful eccentric character actor from Second City named Severn Teakle Darden who played Bensinger,” says Mays at a recent interview at Sardi’s in New York’s theater district.

Now Mays is playing that same part—that of a fastidious neatnik reporter—in the star-studded Broadway revival at the Broadhurst Theater, 235 West 44th Street, New York City, led by Nathan Lane.

“I identify strongly with Bensinger,” says Mays, an elegant gentleman of the theater, known for his crisp old-school manners and splendid suits and haberdashery. “I know my germ-phobia has increased since doing this part. My dressing table certainly reflects his personality in that I like order. This outward need for order probably indicates an inner chaos. So it’s not a huge change for me to get into that mind-set.”

But he says “all actors are like Bensinger in the way you want all your ducks in a row and have things just so in order so you can fill your roles with that wild energy of performance.”