The Story Behind the Photo: "Shakespeare in Love"

Tania Thompson
 | Mar 04, 2021
Shakespeare in Love
Carmela Corbett and Amelia White in Shakespeare in Love (2018). Photo by Jordan Kubat.

About ​​Shakespeare in Love

Young Will Shakespeare is desperate. He has writer’s block and owes two demanding producers a new comedy—a half-baked mess titled Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter. Enter his inspiration: Viola. Smart, beautiful and Will’s greatest admirer, she will stop at nothing—including breaking the law—to be in his play. As their love blossoms, so does his greatest masterpiece. Mistaken identities, ruthless scheming, and backstage theatrics make this romantic feast “a joyous celebration of theatre” (Daily Telegraph).

What happens when an actor gets the giggles? For Carmela Corbett, it was a sign that she was having a great time portraying Viola in South Coast Repertory’s production of Shakespeare in Love (2018). Of course, it also meant she had to concentrate a bit more to stay in the moments of the play, but it also signaled to her the joy she felt with the play and the cast. This production marked her ​third SCR show—​she also has been in Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl (2012) and Smokefall ​by Noah Haidel (2013). Read on to find out more about why she selected this photo [above] as a favorite scene from the play—and how she conquered the giggles.

What moment does this depict?

I always adored this moment in the show—it’s right at the top of the play. It was my first scene and my character, Viola, is dreaming of a life in the theatre and complaining that men get to play all the roles! For me, this short and simple scene would set the tone of the whole performance: Am I in my body? Am I listening? Am I connecting with the other actor? This was a complicated show with lots of comings and goings and quick changes and kisses and dances and songs and music and wigs and sword flights and ​a dog! So, this simple scene at the top of the play, just talking to Amelia, always felt like a dream. If I could get grounded on stage ​in this moment, then I knew that the rest of the show was going to be okay.

How did you work to make this moment happen?

I think this scene required the least direction of any scene in the play! Afterall, there were no sword fights, no cross-dressing and no intimate poetry-filled love scenes! Straight away, Amelia and I had a very warm rapport working together and that informed ​our characters’ relationship beautifully. We often would get the giggles, so much of my attention was on staying grounded and not getting too carried away with it all.

What’s the power about this moment?

This scene contains my favorite line that I've ever had the good fortune of saying in a play: “I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all.” What a powerful way to start a show! I hope this sentiment rings true in my own life and work, as I'm sure so many of us do.

Anything else you’d like to say about the photo or the production?

I would do it again in an instant! When we finished our run, I was quite heartbroken. The whole experience of participating in this play was incredibly healing for me. I had recently come off the long run of a very serious play in London’s West End and was incredibly burned out. So for me to play on stage with these brilliant, generous, warm and hilarious actors each night was a dream. There is so much joy and fun and laughter and heart in this play. It was like a balm to my soul.