Chapter 109

“Observation?” she asked, taking a sip of her barley tea.

“We have to make a one-man play using the characteristics of the person next to us. It’s a bit harder than I thought,” Maru mentioned, thinking of what happened yesterday.

He was a little surprised by the word that Miso used. What did she mean, “observation”? But as soon as he carried out the task she gave him, he understood what she was trying to do. As a matter of fact, it was exactly in line with what Ganghwan often liked to say: “there’s no better training than observation.” Carefully observing his target alone was giving him a very different impression of that person than what he normally felt.

“Hm, observation.”

She thought for a second with a slight frown before turning to stare at Maru intently. Maru returned her gaze, mostly because he found her eyes adorable. She avoided his gaze first with a little cough. A little word bubble appeared above her head, probably because their eyes met. Maru chose to ignore it. He didn’t want to learn about what she was thinking using such underhanded tactics.

“Don’t you ever get embarrassed about anything?”

“Embarrassed about what?”

“No, well… whatever. It always feels like I’m losing out if I start talking with you.”

She stood up with a light snort. The two of them were currently in the Myungdong Art Theater. On days when they had their amateur classes, the theater would close a tad bit earlier, and the high schoolers and college students would practice together on stage. Maru remembered being shocked when he first started speaking on stage. Despite the auditorium being as big as it was, his voice could reverberate throughout the place easily. He could tell from just that one experience that indeed, the building was built specifically with acting in mind.

To say it was different from a small theater would be an understatement. Maru felt incredibly insignificant as soon as he looked out into the seats from the stage. To fill out a stage as big as this with one’s own presence… would require an incredible amount of work.

“Hey, hey. Stop talking and get over here.”

Ganghwan waved the high schoolers around him back over. There were twelve of them total, all from high school acting clubs near Seoul. Among them, there were even people who already made their debuts in the industry. Indeed, the producers for this project were incredibly careful in selecting candidates.

“I know you guys are all very busy with the festival. You have two weeks left now, right?”

“Exactly two weeks,” one of the girls said nervously.

This girl was someone who went to Bosung high, a school that ended up getting second place in summer nationals, right after Myunghwa high. As a result, Maru often found the girl looking at her a lot. Whenever her eyes met with the girl’s, she often waved back with an awkward smile. This caused the girl to wave back with a little bit of anger, little bit of defeat, and a little bit of a forced smile all at once. The two would surely become good friends.

“Han Maru.”

“Yes.”

“Come out here and say your line,” Ganghwan said, pointing towards him.

The first thing Ganghwan did after the amateur classes started was to give a script to each of the students. He gave them a temporary role and made them practice. After a few days, he held a quick reading session before making them act right away. He took careful notes as he watched the team perform a half-baked run, then assigned roles the very next day. As he assigned roles, he told them, “if you want to change roles, prove your skill to me.” Meaning, they could switch roles with someone else as long as they were good enough. And today was the day when they could prove themselves to Ganghwan.

The amateur acting class was performing a play called ‘class 3, grade 3’, a casual play describing school life. It was a fairly average play, where none of the characters had any significant age differences.

Maru played the class president. A boy who excelled academically, but secretly admired the delinquents. Maru took a deep breath before imagining the classroom surrounding him. The classroom was tinted with a yellow hue from the warm afternoon sun. The blackboard was washed clean, and there was a little Korean flag hanging on its top left corner. He could hear some of the students making plans to go somewhere in the hallway. At the same time, he could hear the teachers yelling at the kids to not pick up any weird hobbies outside.

‘Page five.’

The class president feels his heart start to beat, as he watches his friends he previously mocked start to dance. Once everyone leaves after school ends, he would look around carefully and start dancing himself, humming the song from earlier in the day. The door of the class opens, and his eyes immediately meet one of his friend’s. What would the class president feel in that moment?

“......”

He was supposed to say ‘no, this isn’t what you think it is’ in the script, but Maru had a different idea. He decided to be silent, and communicate through gestures instead. He closed his eyes tightly for a second before scratching his head awkwardly. He felt if he were in the same situation, he wouldn’t be able to say anything. He fidgeted around nervously before walking away with a ‘I’m leaving’.

“Okay, Kim Sihoon, you’re up next.”

Ganghwan nodded silently before calling on the next person. Maru walked back to where she was standing.

“Did I do well?”

“Mm, you were better than the script, at the least. But the audience wouldn’t be able to see you fidgeting from afar, so maybe you do need some more dialogue to compensate.”

“Hm, is that so.”

“It’s a pass, in my opinion. But I’m not the instructor, so don’t take my words to heart.”

The boy after Maru also acted out a short scene. Again, Ganghwan simply said ‘okay’ before calling on the next person. There was no feedback from him whatsoever, making this entire test move along incredibly quickly. The kids around Maru were talking to each other about the scene they would act out on stage.

“You want to hang out this weekend?”

“I have practice.”

“Your club’s pretty insane, huh. Weekend practice?”

“I know you guys practice just as much as us, so shut it.”

“Rest is important, too.”

“No, you. I’m going to practice more, and get that best acting award. My senior took it this summer, so I’m gonna go for the winter one.”

“Just where is that confidence coming from?”

“Practice, obviously.”

What a workaholic… Maru gave up on going on a date this week, as well. As he expected, her mind was set in stone whenever it came to acting. Even in his brief memories of the past he could see her practicing during their dates. He didn’t hate seeing her do that, though, so he didn’t mind.

The kids stepped up one by one to act. After the last kid finished, Ganghwan gave his notebook one last glance before gathering everyone up.

“Good job doing practice, first of all. You have a pretty decent grasp of your characters even while practicing for the winter nationals. And here I was getting ready to scold you for being lazy, too. I’m relieved that you’re all so hard working.”

It looked like everyone passed, for now. Ganghwan continued talking as he flipped through his notebook.

“As you guys know, this amateur class is a test run. It’s not really about holding a successful play, but more about figuring out how to schedule everything. It’s not a competition or anything either. Sure, it’d be good practice for you guys to act at a stage as big as this, but that’s not good enough of a reason to try so hard for this, is it?”

A hint of playfulness crept up on Ganghwan’s face. He was starting to rev up, clearly. Whenever the man put on a face like that, he always liked to start something ridiculously annoying. Maru had a small flashback to when the man made him walk blindly on the streets with that same expression. Saying that it was for developing Maru’s ‘other senses’ or something.

“I heard that many of you are dreaming of becoming professional actors. Some of you even worked as a child actor even. That’s why I wanted to show you how professional actors get the roles that they want. Ah, I’m not actually showing you how that would work. I’m going to make you do it.”

“Meaning...”

“I told you, right? If you want a role, prove your worth to me. From what I saw today, all of you are pretty average. None of you’re particularly talented or anything. So, we’ll hold a proper audition, starting today, all the way to next week. We’re going to hold an audition for several roles each day. If you want a particular role, you should apply for the audition and challenge yourself.”

Ganghwan stroked his chin with an odd smile.

“But just a simple audition is too boring. We need additional motivation. Am I right?”

The kids reluctantly nodded. Maru had to wonder just what that human was up to this time on the inside.

“You might know if you’ve seen a play, but normally there are four important roles, four side characters, and four characters that are no better than props. Occasionally you will see people saying that all characters in a play are important, but they’re wrong. After all, you can’t say that Romeo’s friend in Romeo and Juliet is more important than Romeo, am I right?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s the same with this place. The class president, the delinquents, and the teacher. Roles like these appear in every scene, and they always take the center stage. I’m planning on modifying the script to make these four characters have more importance in the play. Meaning… the stage time for other characters would be cut.”

Ganghwan twirled with a little grin on his face. The students, who were used to Ganghwan’s odd movements at this point, waited silently. But knowing well that this conversation could go somewhere very odd if Ganghwan was left alone to talk by himself, Maru stepped in.

“So what’s the reward?”

“Reward! That’s right, rewards are important. You know that our play is going to be put on for free, right?”

“Yes.”

“That’s it.”

“What?”

Ganghwan made another odd look.

“A teacher that I respect greatly will be coming to see this play. Not just to watch the play, obviously. If you truly have dreams of becoming an actor, then… Don’t miss this chance. Appeal yourselves to this man.”

Ganghwan muttered ‘if only I were 13 years younger’ to himself dejectedly.

“Who’s coming?”

“You can see for yourself on the day of. You guys might not know about him, though. He’s a bit of a legend. Haha.”

* * *

“I’m leaving! See ya!”

“.....”

She disappeared in a flash. Her eyes changed immediately after hearing what Ganghwan said. For someone who wanted to be an actor, this chance Ganghwan offered must’ve been incredibly tempting for her. Maru didn’t know who Ganghwan was talking about, but he could easily tell it was going to be someone extraordinary.

“Not just to watch, huh...”

Was the man there to cast some of the actors? Or what? Maru thought for a bit, but gave up thinking in the end. Honestly, he wasn’t very attracted by this offer. He was busy enough. If he were to get any busier from here, he wouldn’t be able to spend any time with her. That would be troublesome. After all, he was only working hard right now for his family.

“Hah, I guess I have to work on Miso’s assignment, now.”

The sun was setting, but he still had a mountain of work to do. Maru took out his phone and started scrolling through his contacts.

* * *

Daemyung was on the way back home after finishing his lesson with his coach. His coach worked as a principal of an acting school after working for years around Hyehwa station. The coach always taught him acting very kindly, always relating to personal experiences to help Daemyung understand the harder concepts.

‘Hah, I need to lose weight...’

The one thing his coach gave him as homework was to control his weight. Daemyung wasn’t very ashamed of his body, but he could only agree with the coach when he was told that actors needed to freely control their weight. But just as he shook off his hunger and got on the bus, his phone rang. It was Maru.

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