LeBron Banks Benton, who passed away on September 17 at the age of 52 in Chattanooga, Tenn., was one of a kind. He was an actor, director and teacher; brilliant, kind, witty; an excellent host and guest; and, for all of his jocularity, a serious artist and a man sensitive to the needs of others. And he lived a full, productive, creative life, even as kidney disease began to weaken his body.
Benton's upbringing doubtless contributed his uniqueness. His father was in the oil business, and he lived in places like Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and England. Luckily for us, he remained in Indianapolis for several years after graduating from Butler University, and our theatre community is a better place for it.
He was a versatile actor, appearing in musicals, straight plays and children's theatre. He did everything from the Queen of Hearts on tour and the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz for Civic Theatre, to roles in Albee, Ayckbourn, Busch, Durang, Frayn, McNally, Miller, Pinter and Shaw (to name but a few) at the Phoenix Theatre and Theatre on the Square. He gave each role the same preparation and loving care.
He was an audience favorite, and his work was recognized with numerous awards and nominations, including several Encore and League of Professionally Managed Theatre's "Pat" Awards from the Indianapolis theatre community, as well as Miss Annie Awards from the Chattanooga Theatre Centre.
Benton was oft-quoted for his LeBronisms:
"I have a little query, but then, what prep-school boy hasn't?"
"Take me, feed me, show me, buy me."
"I love you more than my luggage."
He'll be remembered by this friend for his amazing dinner parties, brilliant wit and the comic timing of a marksman and his heightened appreciation of all things beautiful.
Memorial contributions may be made to The National Kidney Foundation and The Phoenix Theatre, which will host a celebration of his life December 1.