Chapter 127

“You’re alone today?” Yoojin asked as she approached Maru, who was seated near a side curtain.

She didn’t see the girl who was always next to Maru, or was Maru always next to her?

“Something came up.”

“What happened?”

“The anniversary of her father’s passing.”

“Oh.”

Silence ensued for a moment. Yoojin scratched her cheek as she sat next to Maru.

“Did I ask something that I shouldn’t have?”

“Just don’t say anything in front of her. Anyways, did you finish editing your lines?”

“For now. I wanted to go over it with you.”

She opened up her script and suppressed a yawn, she had stayed up late last night to review a production from one of her favorite actresses.

“You should try getting a nap in if you’re tired.”

“How can I sleep here.”

“Sometimes, it helps to just close and rest your eyes,” Maru said as he started to slowly close his eyes. There was nothing to lose in trying. Warmth started to come back into his fatigued eyes. After about five minutes, he felt his mind clear.

"Not too bad, right?”

“Yeah. I thought sleep was the only answer.”

“If your body is well rested, it’s not too difficult to stay up a couple days in a row. Though near the end, you probably won’t even know if someone is carrying you on their back,” Maru said while shrugging his shoulders.

Yoojin stretched out her arms and gave a big yawn before focusing on her script.

“What’s your thoughts on Seulmi? What type of person is she?”

“Seulmi? Like a heroine figure. More importantly though is the question how she became like that.”

Hmm? Yoojin gave a surprised but interested expression, she’d heard the exact same words before. When she visited and asked a more senior actress in the industry, she also mentioned that Yoojin should deeply consider the character’s background rather than simply interpret the character on preconceived notions. The only member in this amateur acting club to give her similar advice was Maru. Although everyone here wanted to become a professional actor, they were still just a bunch of inexperienced high school students.

“Wow, that’s really deep and insightful.”

"I just heard it from somewhere.”

"Can I see your script?”

Maru handed her his script. After glancing at Maru briefly, she started scanning the pages. She exclaimed quietly.

'What’s all this?’

There were two scripts attached, the original and a photocopy filled to the brim with his notes.

"This is all character analysis?”

"It’s not all analysis. Some are thoughts that arose in the moment, there was nothing else to do anyways.”

Yoojin thought ‘there’s nothing better to do so you do this?’ She set down her own script and started focusing on Maru’s. His analysis and notes on Chuljin covered the character’s experiences from youth to high school, his interaction with various people throughout his life, the influences he received from parents who weren’t even in the script, and the impact from his surrounding environment. She couldn’t help but exclaim at the thoroughness of Maru’s analysis, especially because the play was a one-off trial.

“Isn’t this a waste of energy?”

“I don’t know much about acting or theater, so there’s no such thing as waste. Everything helps me grow and develop as an actor.”

Nothing is wasted on something you don’t know. Yoojin took Maru’s words to heart.

"Can I read this a little longer?”

"Yeah, feel free,” Maru answered.

He closed his eyes like he did before, it looked like he was imagining something rather than sleeping. Yoojin briefly looked at that face before falling into a seemingly new world in Maru’s script.

‘Even his writing is neat.’

The script was jam packed with neatly written notes. Each note was well organized without a single crooked line. She felt these notes fit well with the sharp, keen impression Maru gave off. Maru’s exhaustive analysis on the character Chuljin was flawless. She couldn’t believe that someone who said that he wasn’t knowledgeable about acting could do such thorough analysis. Flipping through page after page, her astonishment only grew.

‘If I’m not careful, I might get pushed out.’

The character in a play changes based on the actor, which illustrates the importance of an actor’s ability. This is the reason why some people say ‘so-and-so would have been so much better in that role” when watching a TV show. The character Chuljin in this play was front and center with many lines. With such heavy usage and presence, the actor who portrays him will inevitably be scrutinized. A high level of scrutinization also meant that the actor would receive a commensurate level of recognition and reward.

Yoojin was confident in herself. Among the amateur acting group members, she felt that none could match her level. However, her firm confidence was betrayed by the presence of his script. She didn’t feel nervous. Far from it, she felt a sense of anticipation. A rival. She firmly believed that development came after overcoming struggles and beating rivals.

The characters Seulmi and Chuljin would be conversing line after line to each other throughout the play. If Chuljin shines, Seulmi would be pushed off to the side.

A fiery fire ignited in Yoojin’s eyes and her excitement grew. She heard that current professional actors would be attending this trial play. Instructor Ganghwan mentioned that an important figure would not be able to make the play, but in her eye’s, all the people who were attending had standing and value.

She heard that 70% of the audience would be from the general public, 20% from the professional actors’ crowd, and the rest from those who were in the industry. She had her eyes set on this last group. Who would show up for no reason? They were coming because it related to their work.

The amateur’s play would be on the final day of the main play, which kicked off the celebratory opening of the Myungdong Art Theater. On that final night, current actors in theater and cinema, celebrity actors on TV, and hot new actors from smaller theaters would all be in attendance to celebrate the main play’s curtain call. They’d also be the audience that would watch the amateur’s play.

All 12 members of the amateur acting group were picked from separate high school acting clubs. Though they were set to perform a one-off play, no member took it lightly. Even the famous director Lee Junmin would often come and watch the practices. Though he often came to visit Ganghwan, he would also come unannounced and observe practice sessions.

What did this signify?

This space was more than just a practice and learning facility to give amateurs a chance to hone their skills. It was also a training ground that allowed directors and agents to recognize up and coming stars in the field. There were probably even more savvy industry people keeping a close eye on the college amateur facility. All the members of that acting group were already semi-pro.

‘I like acting. It’s fun. So, I want to succeed even more.’

Do I need to always be fearful, cautious, and calculative when chasing my dream?

Does someone in the arts always have to live that way?

If an actor becomes commercially active, does his or her value drop?

Yoojin didn’t think so.

She recalled an actress who started in theater and later became a superstar after starring in a movie. The actress wasn’t that well known even in the theater scene, she was an actress when the curtains went up but worked part-time when away from the stage. Once she found fame through her movie role, she started taking every commercial marketing opportunity offered.

The long hours spent crafting and honing her skills in the theater allowed the public to recognize and acknowledge her acting chops in her movie role. However, after chasing lucrative commercial opportunities one after the other, the actress was often attacked online as being too greedy and shallow. Whenever Yoojin saw these negative online comments, she disagreed. Why are people in the arts singled out as greedy when they take advantage of opportunities presented to them?

There was a turning point in public perception for the actress. After shooting commercials one after the other, she later starred in an independent film and brought herself back into the forefront of the public eye. There was no pre-marketing or advertisement about her participation in the film, which was made by recent college graduates. People started recognizing her only after they saw her appear on screen in the film.

She then started an amazing film career that highlighted her wide breadth and exceptional acting skill. She appeared in a movie dealing with homosexuality, a film about the corruption in modern corporations, and even a B-rated horror film. She didn’t look back on the romance role and genre that initially made her into a star. Yoojin watched all this with amazement. In a specific hair-raising and eye-opening moment, Yoojin decided that this was to be her ‘dream’ too.

At a later point in the actress’ career, she gave an interview and stated,

- I don’t have to worry about money anymore, nor do I feel that I need to conform to other’s expectations. I may not be able to do cosmetic commercials, but I can choose any role or shoot any film I want. My early life plans and decisions led to success, so I’d like to take this opportunity to say something to the detractors. Eat X.

Even though the magazine used an ‘X’ instead of the actual word, Yoojin recognized the phrase and had the word ‘shit’ echo in her mind. She re-read the article countless times. From that day forward, whenever she was asked if she looked up to someone, she replied confidently without a shred of doubt. First were her parents who raised such a finicky daughter and second was the actress who gave Yoojin her dream.

Yoojin didn’t have an exact role or specific project in mind. However, she was motivated to earn as much money as possible for her future. Therefore, she needed to show her value now.

Your drama will shine if you cast me.

That’s how it’ll be.

‘I’m not going to be pushed around.’

Yoojin gave a refreshing smile, she welcomed her fellow actor preparing so thoroughly on his end. The tension wouldn’t be there if her counterpart were to be underprepared or less motivated. She believed that one could only shine if there was a sense of nervousness and eager anticipation amongst the actors who worked together on a play.

Though she couldn’t base his acting level purely on his script, she knew from watching him practice that he was not an unskilled actor. He sometimes showed signs of inexperience, but she could see his potential blossoming and then exploding onto the acting scene in the future. Since Ganghwan and Junmin often focused their attention on Maru, she knew her thoughts weren’t unfounded.

“Thanks. I got a lot out of it.”

She handed over the script to Maru, who opened his eyes.

“You look happy.”

“Yeah?”

She replied with a lilting voice and an eyebrow raised. She then picked up her own script. She understood that he was putting his all into the play. She needed to cooperate and synergize with her counterpart with as much effort and focus.

“I want you to know, I’m the main.”

“… fine.”

“I’m going to steal the show and make an impression, so you need to do well too. You need to do well in order for me to shine.”

She turned and left the confused Maru.

This one-off play and nationals.

The time to shine was right in front of her.

* * *

Yoojin stood in the middle of the stage and read her lines with a confident, loud voice. There were some who stopped what they were doing to look over, Maru also took a glance. She had a clear voice and perfect diction. He felt a sense of competition, having someone with such exceptional skills would also help him develop.

"The main, huh.”

He felt like a general who received a declaration of war.

Maru got up from his seat. He thought today would be uneventful since his girlfriend was absent, but he found an unexpected source that set off his competitive spirit.

‘Sorry, but there’s no one who likes to lose.’

He felt the motivation to act.

He wanted to thoroughly enjoy his time in this field before focusing on money. This sense of enjoyment spread throughout his being and turned into an unstoppable force.

Maru already received the go ahead from his past life’s wife. She already said yes, so what’s there to worry about. He would firmly show the experience and understanding he accumulated in his past 45 years.

The wisdom and experience gained over such a long period of time is also an influential part of acting. If he were to put on ‘fake smiles and tears’, he could take his acting craft a step further.

Maru stood off at a distance from Yoojin.

He then started reciting his lines to the empty audience seats.

* * *

“Hmm.”

Ganghwan looked at the stage with his hand supporting his chin. It was a practice like any other day, but there was one person taking the spotlight, Yoojin. It was as if she was competing with someone. He felt it was good to see.

“Is she thinking of someone?”

The stage is where an actor develops, it widens one’s spectrum and heightens one’s confidence. This is why everyone wants to be on stage. No matter if it’s the main or minor role, everyone benefits and takes away something by being in that space.

And another reason.

There’s something that allows an actor to develop.

That something is the counterpart, the actor on the opposite side.

Older plays often had a hero-like figure as the main character. The hero would struggle and overcome hardships and shine in front of adversity. However, the hero’s shine is incomparable when standing next to the sun, that’s why a shadow is needed.

Every hero needs an opposing rival.

Just as light plays off dark, having opposite, competing forces is essential.

Ganghwan didn’t know why, but it seemed that Yoojin had Maru on her mind. That influence pushed her to amplify her strengths, her clear diction that often-lacked emotion was now full of emotion. In the industry, the phenomenon when a character suddenly comes alive was commonly referred to as ‘attached’. Today, Yoojin was definitely ‘attached’. If someone were to come in and observe just for the day, they would think that she was the main character who would carry the play.

“You’ve gone off and ignited the fire in someone, but where are you, Maru?”

Maru’s acting was fairly good, he had a way of capturing the audience’s attention. His acting training and short performances in Anyang became something like a nutrient for his development. Now, Ganghwan thought, all Maru needed was to absorb that nutrient.

Maru recently changed.

Previously, he was realistic and calculative, but now, he seemed more relaxed and able to see the forest for the trees. Ganghwan, who saw Maru daily, could feel the change. Teacher Moonjoong’s must have also been a large influence.

The stage was set for change.

There was now a motive for that change.

“Good. Good. It’s a great environment for growth.”

Everything now depended on Maru.

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ensj's Thoughts

These chapters were translated by PlumpCat99, while ensj was out on personal business.