“What are you doing?”
“What do you mean? I’m obviously doing a handstand.”
Ganghwan’s face was red as though he was drunk.
“Your face looks like it’s about to burst at any moment.”
“This is good for blood flow, you know?”
Maru smiled as he entered. The practice room looked the same as the last time he came here. The faint smell of sweat, the texture of the wooden floor, as well as the slogan that pricked his conscience.
“The weather’s pretty cool now, isn’t it?”
“It’s nearly the end of September after all.”
He sat down next to Ganghwan as he spoke. Meanwhile, Sooil had laid out the snacks he brought. He had brought quite a diverse variety.
“He’s eating whenever I see him, but he doesn’t gain any weight for some reason.”
“My words exactly. But how long are you going to stay like that?”
Ganghwan lightly kicked off the wall and lied down just like that.
“I’m not surprised. Also, there’s no one here.”
“What do you mean? We’re all here.”
Maru looked around the practice room. Unless there were invisible men in this room, only the three of them were in the practice room right now.
“There’s only four, including one other person.”
“That’s not a lot. Where’s the last person right now?”
“She’ll be here soon. Rather than that, can you bring me some water, Maru? I’m too dizzy to stand up.”
Ganghwan smiled and pointed at the mini fridge in the corner. Maru walked on his knees and opened the fridge. The waist-height fridge was filled with soju, beer, water, and some side dishes. Even a single man would have a better fridge than this.
“There’s practically a whole bar in here.”
He gave Ganghwan a water bottle. Ganghwan, still lying down, poked out his head and drank water like a turtle. He soon started coughing violently.
“It got caught in my throat.”
“Of course it’ll get caught in your throat if you drink it like that. You should really sit up if you can.”
“I’m tired so I’m gonna stay like this for a while. Sooil!”
Sooil blinked his eyes and looked at him.
His hand movements looked like he was very proficient with doing something like this. It didn’t look like this was the first or second time he had done this.
“This is why I like Sooil. Maru, that kid is so uncute.”
“Sooil. Don’t forget to get paid after doing that. Otherwise, it’s extortion of labor.”
While Ganghwan received a massage, Maru picked up some snacks to eat. He could feel Sooil’s glare whenever he touched the snacks, but he decided to ignore him since he was hungry.
“You two haven’t had dinner yet?”
“I came here right after school, so, no.”
Sooil also chimed in with a ‘me too’.
“Then I guess I should tell Hanna to buy something then.”
“The last one is Hanna-noona?”
“I saw her when I went to see a play with a friend last time. Oh, how is she doing with Soochan-hyung? I did hear that Soochan-hyung proposed to her and gave her a ring.”
Park Hanna. She was a senior that taught him a lot about acting. She was also the person that created the opportunity to meet her when he didn’t know her yet.
“Don’t even start. You wouldn’t be able to imagine the lengths she would go in order to sleep with Soochan once. Soochan’s so pitiful now.”
It seemed that her habit of throwing around lewd jokes hadn’t changed at all. While Ganghwan was on a phone call with Hanna, Maru jogged around inside the practice room. They shouldn’t start practicing for the play today, but he had a habit of warming himself up whenever he came here. He rotated his ankles and wrists and was just about to exercise his vocal cords with a vocal exercise when Sooil approached him.
“Do you wanna see who can voice a low tone longer? Loser buys drinks,” Sooil said as he placed one hand on his stomach.
“I don’t do bets with scammers.”
“Why am I a scammer?”
“Do I have to bring up what happened at the billiard table?”
Sooil avoided his gaze and smiled.
“Then let’s just try. I’m confident in controlling my breath.”
“If you wish.”
“You can start first. I’ll start right after.”
Sooil sounded confident. Maru got into position while looking at the mirror in front of him. As dramas were real-time shoots, he had to focus on his pronunciation rather than voicing. That was because the microphone would pick it up as long as he was louder than a certain volume. However, the same couldn’t be said for a play. In a play, the actors had to move the hearts of the audience with just one output device - their vocal cords.
This was why play actors always did vocal exercises. They had to produce a deeper sound by using their entire bodies as a vocal chamber, just like how a singer would do it.
Voicing out a low tone was one such exercise. It was done by voicing out a lower-than-usual tone for a long time.
He breathed in with his stomach and started producing a sound. Following that, Sooil joined him.
Just as they were focusing on their breath,
“Your voices are echoing in your mouths, kiddos! Are you doing a mumbling competition?”
Ganghwan, who was rolling around behind them, suddenly shouted. His loud voice reverberated in the practice room.
He hadn’t heard it for a while, but Ganghwan’s voice was quite incredible. It sounded as though there was a huge bell in the middle of the practice room. The other minor sounds were trivial and were eaten up by the sound of that bell. Only after Ganghwan’s voice dissipated could Maru and Sooil hear their own voices.
“Focus. Voicing is the alpha and omega of play acting.”
Maru focused on the vibration of the sound inside his stomach as he voiced out. Sooil, who sounded confident, seemed to be as proficient as his confidence made him out to be. Unlike his usual crisp voice, it sounded very heavy right now. It was a voice that was worth boasting about.
“If your acting voice can’t travel further than your normal voice, it’ll sound like a mosquito to the audience. Relax your neck and lower your vocal cords! The sound should be focused in front of your body and spread out from there! Don’t swallow it and spit it out. It’ll be easier for both you and the listeners if you spit it out. Don’t squeeze it out.”
Ganghwan made scary eyes before putting his hands on Maru’s stomach.
“Looks like you haven’t done your vocal exercises at all. You took a break because you were shooting dramas, didn’t you? You were too loose because the microphone did the work for you, huh?”
Maru frowned and tensed his stomach. He thought his voicing wasn’t bad, but it seemed that Ganghwan found it unsatisfactory.
“What good is tensing your stomach like that? What’s the part that supports your diaphragm when it expands and you make a deep sound? It’s your back muscles. This part is all loose so it’s not going to make a good sound at all. You too, Sooil. Relax your shoulders and neck. Why are you tensing unnecessary muscles? That’s what’s killing the sound. There’s a clear difference between suppressing your voice and speaking with power, and your voice being suppressed due to lack of strength.”
Ganghwan pressed the tip above the back of Maru’s waist, at the end of where his latissimus dorsi muscle was. Maru pictured a balloon in his head and focused on the sound.
“That’s it. That’s much better. Why didn’t you do that until now? Both of you, cut your breaths!”
Maru cut his breath short. He felt a little dizzy. Sooil was also swallowing his breath with difficulty.
“Breathe in and say ga ge gi go gu like you’re spitting it out.”
Maru shot words like a bullet towards the mirror in front of him. He used one breath for one word. The first time was easy, but the more he did so, the more that he felt his words were coming from the back of his head. At such times, he had to start over. It was simple, but hard to continue doing the same thing.
“What, you started already?”
Hanna’s figure could be seen through the mirror. Although he had to greet her, he couldn’t stop now. Ganghwan’s instruction was one thing, but he couldn’t stop first when he looked at Sooil, who hadn’t stopped either. Although they started lightly, they turned it into a fight of pride that he didn’t want to lose.
“It’s been a long time since I last saw Maru, and I guess you must be Yoo Sooil, right?”
Hanna approached Sooil from the back, who was still voicing out a low tone. After staring at his neck, which was tense, Hanna suddenly grabbed Sooil’s waist with both of her hands.
Sooil collapsed on the floor with an ‘uhuh’ sound. Literally ‘uhuh’.
“Your waist is weak. You look like you’re worth my time tickling.”
Maru looked at Sooil while finishing his breath.
“That’s my win, right?”
“Let’s do it again. I can’t acknowledge that.”
His competitive spirit seemed to have been fired up again as he got into position again, but Maru didn’t face him. If he did that one more time, he might fall due to anemia.
“It’s been a long time, noona.”
He greeted her as he sat down. Hanna smiled as she waved her hand.
“I heard you guys haven’t eaten yet, so here are some lunchboxes.”
“Hanna, what about me?” Ganghwan asked as he raised his hand.
“I have yours as well, so don’t look at me like a little child would. In a couple of years, you’ll be in the latter half of your thirties.”
“My heart will always be a Peter Pan.”
Hanna smiled as she handed the food out.
* * *
“But is it a play that people like us can butt into?” Maru asked as he put down the empty lunch box.
The four of them would suffice if it was a small-scale play, but the problem was that two out of the four were high school students.
Stages didn’t come for free. Unless it was a theater owned by the theater troupe, rental fees would occur. Taking into account the money required to practice, a play had to produce a profit. Of course, they could attract an audience with just the name ‘Yang Ganghwan’, but that didn’t explain why they decided to bring 2 high school students in.
There was a clear difference in the target audience between movies and plays. Almost no one would specifically find and watch a play because of one unknown high school student actor and a slightly-known high school student actor.
“Of course, it won’t work for a normal play.”
“We’re going to turn it into a play where the audience participates. The target audience is middle to high school students like you.”
“A play where the audience participates?”
Ganghwan nodded once.
“Maru, remember what you did with me last winter?”
Last winter? Oh, was he referring to that?
“The amateur acting class?”
“Yes, that. It’s in collaboration with that and we’re holding a free play as a project to tell more of the public about plays. But the funds really aren’t looking good.”
Maru understood the gist of it when he heard that the funding wasn’t good.
“That doesn’t mean that we can just use anyone, so we switched strategies like that. That allows us to decrease the number of actors and increase the participation of the audience, making them interested, if possible. These days, young kids use mini homepages or something like that, don’t they? Rather than targeting adults, we thought that targeting kids who are proficient with the internet might help promote us in the long term.”
“That sounds nice. There’s less pressure for the audience since the actors are not that much older than them, if at all. So we’re being used to catch their attention?”
“That’s one of your roles. First, we’ll complete the play, and try acting it out a couple of times in Marronnier Park. Once we have decided on a set format, we’ll move over to the stage as well.”
“Oh, sounds fun.”
Sooil smiled as he spoke.
“What about the script?” Maru asked Ganghwan again.
“Tomorrow. Today, I just gathered you here to get to know each other. Maru may know Hanna, but Sooil doesn’t. We’ll have to get closer to each other if we’re going to stand on stage. Speaking of that….”
Ganghwan crawled to the fridge before taking out four cans of beer.
“Let’s have a drink.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
I kinda missed Hanna and her lewd jokes now that I'm remembering her first appearance. She was very entertaining.