The assignment was a fiasco. The story I was sent to cover was about an actor, Kevin Babbitt, who was performing in an upcoming play. I was under the impression that Babbitt was having his final dress rehearsal. In reality, he was directing someone else’s dress rehearsal — in the pitch dark. He felt bad for me and let me stick around and photograph him directing someone else’s play.
I called the photo department and, as usual, they said just shoot what you can. I was worried because this was my second assignment in my entire life and the first one hadn’t gone smoothly. It felt like photo hazing.
And then I totally lucked out. Dream of dreams, he’s directing a play about a clown. It’s not really about a clown; it’s about how a woman managed her struggle with breast cancer. The playwright and solo performer, M. Heather Carver, dressed up as a clown and illustrated how humor helped her navigate through the uncertain terrain. Before rehearsal, Carver, who was partially in costume, and Babbitt were talking next to a hat filled with red noses. And then they were talking next to a chest of clown clothes and wigs. I shot these pictures not knowing how on earth my photographs would match the reporter’s story about Babbitt’s play, “Being Frank,” which is based on a conversation between a journalist and Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father.
After about an hour, they dispersed to begin the rehearsal. Carver left the room to change and Babbitt went about doing director-type business — in the pitch dark. I could not shoot him anymore. I took pictures of the guys setting up chairs and realized that this was even further from the story. I packed up my lenses; the photo ops and my shift were over as far as I was concerned.
As I left the theater, I overheard Carver talking and then a splash of color ran through my peripheral vision. The internal “hmmm, should I?” . happened as I ran toward the bathroom door where I had seen the clown disappear.
I rushed through the door and assessed the situation. Yes, indeed! There is a clown in the bathroom. I asked for her permission to photograph, and from behind the pink stall door she giggled consent.
I literally dove onto the floor for the one picture that, when I saw it, I realized that I had always wanted to take.