THE LEADING MEN: Jefferson Mays Wears Many Hats (and Boots and Bustles and Coats) in the New Musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

By Evan Henerson
12 Mar 2013

Jeffeson Mays as Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.
Photo by Henry DiRocco

"It always makes me sound really shallow, but I work from the outside in," says the Connecticut-born actor speaking by phone during a rehearsal break in San Diego. "I try to think of what a character looks like, what types of shoes he'll wear and I try to wear to rehearsals something that feels more or less like what the costume will be. We used the hats for signifiers of the changing characters and with that, of course, I would change my voice or my stance."

"Clothes are very important," he adds. "I think it's also getting the visual idea of what my character looks like before I go out and start rehearsing. It's totally demoralizing to look at stills because you never look anything like who you imagine you're playing. It just looks like me in a wig."

Or a muscle suit, a top hat, a bustle, a set of false teeth or anything else he and costume designer Linda Cho deemed properly D'Ysquithian. Mays is a research buff as well as a performer and he and Cho had numerous discussions about costume choices including the suggestion that Cho bring some steam punk elements into some of the clothing choices.

Clothes aside, Mays taking on the D'Ysquiths has been a workout. Even with the play's Hartford Stage run completed a few months ago, the actor reports being "bloody but unbowed," his once stiff upper lip a bit the worse for wear.

"A lot of mustaches are applied hastily and taken off in the wings," he says. "I had a face full of sores by the end of the run. I'll try to figure out something."

Mustaches, in fact, are positively the easy part.

"My costumes open in the back and there's a zipper," he says. "So I finish a scene, throw myself into the darkness of the wings and am immediately set upon by three muscular women who rip my clothes off….It sounds more fun contemplating it than it does doing it….So they tear my clothes off, I jump in the new outfit and they pick me up and literally shove me back on stage. It's like the pit crew at the Indy 500."

You may need a scorecard to sort out the diverse D'Ysquiths a few of whom admittedly make little more than an extended cameo. Mays gave us a tour through the family along with some thoughts and musings. Read on!


Previous 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 Next