Last week I photographed a late rehearsal of The Magic Flute. We were in the auditorium where the final performance was to be, on the same stage, and we had most of the cast mostly in costumes. We didn’t have the set nor the stage lighting, just banks of workers.
The undressed stage did boast a few distractions, a grand piano for example and some bright, shinny things at the back. I still don’ t know what they were but I asked for them to be cleared away. Don’t be afraid to ask for distractions like that to be minimised or removed. Examine the stage area closely in advance, if you get the chance. If items cannot be removed or covered then work out angles to shoot from that minimise their inclusion. Long lens and tight cropping can also be useful.
Sometimes the stage will be littered with odds and ends and fragments of paper, if they’re not intrinsic to the plot then get them shifted. However, trying to rip up the tape used for blocking and set positioning is generally a good way to ensure you’re not invited back for future productions.
Often for rehearsals like this where the lighting designer’s handy work is yet to be captured I will reproduce the images in Black and White or play around with the palette. This can give pleasing results in it’s own right but can also eliminate irrelevant and incongruous backgrounds, see for example the early rehearsal pix for Tis Pity She’s a Whore, conducted in a laboratory …