The Quality of Mercy
Dilean Caruthers III, better known to his friends, Dil, was an Ivy League wannabee, however, Harvard, Yale and Columbia would have nothing to do with him so he ended up with us in our little east coast college. He was the oddball son of some midwest wealthy family. He always had Gucci shoes on, designer blazers and he also carried an air about him that he was better than everyone else. Like I said, his close circle of friends, both of them, called him Dil, which I thought was appropriate. But, those of us in the drama club called Dilean Caruthers the third simply, DC3.
The auditions for The Merchant of Venice were excruciatingly long since it was a large cast, but we all tried our best and anxiously awaited the post on the bulleting board the next day to see who was cast and in which role. My friends thought I would get the role of Shylock, but my ego would not let me build up such anxiety attacks. I told them that I would be happy with just a walk-on. Such was the hubris displayed by Billy Finn.
The next day the post went up on the bulletin board at 9 a.m. and the entire drama club gathered around. There was much commotion and discussion on the casting for it seems our good friend DC3 got the role of Shylock. Well, we could not figure out how he got the role, he had not even auditioned, nor was he a member of the drama club. I went to Mr. P. our English 101 teacher and drama coach. We called him Mr. P. because his last name was impossible to pronounce. He just said, "it was one of those things Billy. He'll be good, or if not, we will have to do the best that we can." Billy smelled a payoff knowing that the college had been trying to raise money for a performing arts center for years. Billy could envision the sign in his mind, "The DC3 Center for the Performing Arts."
The rehearsals were grueling and DC3 was totally impossible. He would criticize everything from the blocking to the lighting. The cast had had it when he demanded his own dressing room. Actually, they were glad to get rid of him, still, they gossipped about this unusual demand for a private dressing room. I mean, this was college and not Broadway. In short, DC3 got his own dressing room on the day of the groundbreaking for the new performing arts center.
At dress reahearsal, just three days before opening night, we were going through a complete run through of the show. Everything was going great until the big soliquoy, the quality of Mercy speech. DC3 walked center stage, a single spot on his face, everything quiet as a pin. He paused and just as he was about to utter the first line, a single loud fart pierced the air. It was excruciating loud and long. DC3 paused, shook his head
in disgust, and you could see the anger building in him. Cast members tried to control their laughter and remain in character. But you know what happens when you try not to laugh. It just becomes funnier. One guy started to snort and his body started to convulse as tears ran down his cheeks. DC3 was into the speech, but the cast couldn't stop, and then it became contagious. Castmember after castmember started howling, falling on the stage in tears.
DC3 exploded at Mr. P. He even used the F word as he walked off the stage and quit the production. Mr. P. was furious and demanded to know who flatulated but no one fessed up. "Now, what the hell are we going to do?" Everyone stood on the stage with their heads down at this solemn moment as Mr. P walked back to his seat in the theatre. Everything was quiet, the sole spotlight still shining where DC3 should have been. The cast was perfectly still when Billy Finn walked into the spotlight. He stared into the make believe audience, raised his arms midway, paused, and said,
"The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath: it is twice blest," Billy turned and addressed the awestruck cast, "It blesseth him that gives and him that takes: `Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes..."
Billy saved the day and turned in a Brilliant performance as Shylock. After the fateful dress rehearsal when he was assigned the role of Shylock, his friends asked Billy out to a celebration dinner. "No thanks, I already ate, listen, never eat pork and beans before a performance!" With that, he winked and went on his merry way.
Now, dear readers, you have just been had, because I made that whole thing up. And that speech was delivered by Portia, not Shylock. I just had to do it once here, but I promise not to do it again. I just love when I can say, gotcha'!