Chapter 41

“Put down your scripts.”

The entire club put down their scripts. The entire auditorium quieted down right then.

“We’re going to stop using our scripts from now on. You all have your lines memorized, right?”

“Yes!”

“Good.”

Miso drew a rectangle on the floor with blue tape.

“This is the size of the stage you’ll be working on from now on.”

9 meters wide, and 7 meters tall. The eleven members of the club looked around from inside the rectangle.

“Smaller than you think, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“This is how big most small theaters are. But actually performing in it should change your thoughts drastically. You’ll realize how massive it is once you actually start performing in front of a crowd. Now! Let’s start again from the top. Stay focused, now. Don’t try to take it too seriously, and feel free to ask for lines if you get stuck. Ok?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“I won’t comment too much, since this isn't for real yet. Just try to figure out how the play goes as you work in real time with other actors. Now then, Daemyung, begin.”

The play began with a loud sigh.

* * *

“Hm.”

Soojin smiled awkwardly, causing Maru to put down his tiger doll.

“Is there a problem?” he asked.

“No, it’s nothing.”

Her words betrayed the look of disappointment she wore.

“Please tell me. I’m trying to learn here, so anything helps.”

“Well, ok. If that’s the case...”

Soojin took the doll from his hand and put it on hers.

“First off, your flow of speech is perfect. Even an adult who’s never heard the story would be able to understand everything after just one go. But...”

She looked at the doll for a split second before going “rawr” with a smile on her face.

“The play isn’t for adults. A good story has value, for sure. But kids want entertainment. It’d be good if we can tell them a good story and make them have fun at the same time, but children can’t focus for too long at once. In the end, what you need is something that can grab their attention. Entertainment.”

She went “rawr” again quietly before continuing.

“You’re good at explaining things, Maru. Ah, I’m not a professional, so don’t take my words too seriously.”

“You’re certainly more professional than me.”

“I-is that so? In any case, you’re good at explaining, but it’d be better if you tried to add in some funny bits in the middle. Speaking of which...”

Soojin put the tiger doll back on Maru’s hand. She walked back down to the first floor before returning with something in her hand. It was a camcorder. A small one at that. They should be pretty expensive at this time…

“Is that yours?”

“Oh, this? Yeah. It’s from Alpha. The video quality’s good, and it has decent memory. Plus...”

Soojin closed her mouth with a smile. What an interesting lady. An early adopter trying to get a truck license…

“In any case! Can you try putting on a play with that doll?” she asked.

“By myself?”

“Yeah. I’ll take care of the other voices.”

Maru put on the doll. He decided to start from the section when the mother and daughter characters would meet the tiger on the mountain.

“Rawr.”

“Oh dear.”

“You’re fearless, aren’t you?! Coming into these mountains so late at night! Sniff, sniff, what’s this I smell? Rice cakes?”

Maru decided to just go straight to his next line. Normally, a teacher would intervene here to explain the story.

“I won’t eat you if you give me one of those.”

“H-here you go. Please let me go.”

The play started again. The tiger would eat the rice cakes, and then eat the mother as well.

“Alright, let’s stop here for now. A video should explain the situation really well. Here, take a look.”

His videotaped self was a lot more awkward than he expected from the beginning. He was just staring straight into the camera with no expression at all. Once Soojin finished saying her lines, he finally opened his mouth in the camera.

“Aha,” Maru exclaimed.

“You get it?”

“Yes.”

Maru’s pronunciations were good, and his voice acting decent as well. But his face… His face didn’t carry any emotion in it at all. Apart from his hand, the rest of his body was completely still. In short, it was just really boring to look at.

“Alright, now that you got some feedback, let’s try again pretending you have an audience this time around. Here, I’ll show you how.”

Soojin donned the mother & daughter doll on one hand, and the tiger doll on the other. She took a small breath before starting.

“Rawr!”

That roar alone was enough to make Maru realize how much better Soojin was compared to him. She was moving her entire body when she performed. She tried to become the character itself as she acted out the dolls. She roared like a tiger when the doll was supposed to roar, and she shuddered in fear when the two human dolls scrunched away as well.

That face of hers bloomed into a grin one second before morphing into fury in the next. It was pretty funny to look at. She even made a sorrowful expression when the mom got eaten by the tiger. After the short demonstration, Maru couldn’t help but clap. He realized that he was looking down on finger doll plays all this time. He was trying to get into this with the wrong mindset.

“This is a bit embarrassing when you first try this for the first time. Finger dolls can only do so much to convey emotions. In the end, I realized that I had to express things myself as well. Dolls are just symbols. Mascots. You have to be the one to convey the actual emotions. Voices aren’t enough. Just moving your body a bit here and there aren’t enough either.”

Soojin frowned deeply, saying “you have to do it like this” as she did so. She seemed to be trying to look scary, but she only looked cute doing it.

“Kids are sharper than you think. They get bored if they realize you aren’t trying hard. That’s why you need to do your best.”

She gave him back the tiger doll. Maru nodded. He realized what the woman was trying to tell him. He didn’t know if he could do it well, but he might as well try.

“Smile,” Soojin smiled toothily.

“Smile,” and Maru decided to follow suit.

He had to wonder, if a play for kids were this hard… What was an actual competition like? His mind drifted off to the other club members back at school.

Were they doing well?

* * *

“Auuuuagh,” Miso said, with a strange expression.

Dojin was just looking down at the floor right in front of her.

“Abubaba?”

“......”

“Ababa, abababa. Are you trying to imitate a baby?”

“No, ma’am,” Dojin responded.

“I told you to ask if you didn’t know how to do it, didn’t I?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“So why didn’t you? Are you trying to waste time?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing to me? You’re only hurting the club here. In any case, don’t you have something to do?”

Ugh. Dojin ran outside. Ask questions if you have any… It was a great motto. A very nice way of running a club. You could always ask the other members if you happened to forget one line.

But there was a rule here. A single rule that existed to stop Dojin from asking any questions.

The rule itself was simple enough. If you forget your line, two laps around the field. If someone tells you your line, two more laps around the field. Dojin shouted annoyedly as he came out into the field.

“Ugh! Friggin’ hell! What am I supposed to do?!”

“I can hear you!”

Dojin flinched when he heard Miso’s voice from above. He ran the two laps as fast as he could before coming back in. The practice resumed afterwards.

He had his issues with Miso, but he couldn’t help but follow her instructions regardless. They were definitely working very well.

Running cleansed him of his other thoughts. The nervousness in his body disappeared. The lines slowly returned to him as the club practiced again.

“Okay,” Miso clapped her hands together.

A single round of practice without looking at the script had finished.

“We can’t just finish this with one practice round, can we?”

Dojin nodded, along with everyone else. They were pretty confident they could do better this time.

“Alright. Let’s just go at it, then. We’ll try running after one more round of this.”

Running. That is, actually putting on the play. Miso always threatened to ‘murder’ them if they made a mistake during this.

Dojin swallowed. He was the one that’s made the most mistakes in the past week. He knew what Miso was capable of when she got angry. The other club members seemed to have thought the same thing.

“Good, good. That nervousness is good. This is for real, now. Making a mistake in a run means you’ve made a mistake on the actual performance. You need to be careful. We’ll get right into it after this.”

Miso leaned back in her chair with a smile. Dojin, on the other hand, just sighed. He didn’t even want to imagine the consequences of making a mistake here.

* * *

They were crying.

One of them started first, then the other kids started crying as well. What did he do wrong? Maru looked at Soojin nervously. In the previous scene, he decided to try hard and put as much emotion as he could in showing the tiger eating the mother. He put on a big frown, shouted “roaaar!” as he bit down on the mother doll.

He thought he did pretty well. He really did. But the little girl in front of him exploded into tears.

“Ha, haha.”

Soojin laughed awkwardly before bringing out a different doll. It was a cute turtle. She walked into the crowd of crying children. Maru tried stepping in to help, but receded after the children all stepped back in fear.

“Why did you cry? Were you scared?” Soojin said, waving the turtle doll in her hand. Her voice was soothing and slow.

The crying children instantly gathered around her.

“H-he!”

“A-ate mommy!”

“Moooommmyyyy...”

Maru flinched inside. He felt like he did something wrong. But since there wasn’t anything he could do to remedy the situation, he just awkwardly scratched his head.

“They must’ve been surprised. Then again, when you roared, I almost flinched as well,” the teacher next to him whispered.

Maru apologized.

“Don’t worry about it. You were just trying hard. I don’t think we can continue with you today though. The kids will cry if they see you.”

The teacher gave Maru the doll on her fingers. Maru turned to look at the kids with a conflicted look. The kids were all telling Soojin to punish the bad tiger with a crying look.

“...Come to think of it, my daughter wasn’t a fan of playing with me either.”

He recalled the time when he threw his daughter in the air to stop her from crying. His wife smacked him for that.

Of course, his daughter only cried more from that as well.

[Ugh, have some common sense!]

The voice of his wife was still ringing in his ear.

“Sorry, I’m just not very talented.”

Maru turned to head up to the second floor. The first time he tried to help out in a puppet play, he got three strikes immediately.

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