Chapter 66

Daemyung knew what he was getting himself into. He knew what this would be like, but he couldn’t help but be nervous regardless. The boy felt himself become a little lightheaded from all the eyes that were on him.

It was transitioning to six in the evening now. The sun was starting to set, and the shadows were lengthening around him. The ground around him reddened up a bit, making it feel like he was actually standing under a light.

“Good luck.”

“You can do it,” some of the audience said.

Thank goodness they weren’t being so cold. He would’ve just frozen up if they were telling him to be quiet. Daemyung looked at his script a little bit. He had a lot of lines. Daemyung’s character went by the name of Baksik. A student who lived on the rooftop, full of anger and resentment towards the world.

Since the day he received his script, Daemyung has been doing nothing but flesh out the character in his head.

‘The guy is a student who doesn’t even earn money. Is he thin? No, he must live on instant foods, so he’s gotta be fat. Like me. He’s angry at the world, so he better be frowning all the time, too.’

Daemyung stood in front of his audience. He frowned like he was annoyed at something, and he drooped his shoulders as well. He tried to take away as much energy as he could from his body, almost pretending to be a jellyfish or something. He put a bit more air into his stomach to make himself look a bit fatter.

‘Around thirty years old, watches TV a lot. Knows a lot about society, since that’s what he likes to complain about all the time. The character loves correcting people, and complaining about them. I guess it would be good to pout a bit too?’

Focusing on the character made him feel a little less nervous. He was starting to get his breath back too. The nervousness he felt now was actually starting to make him a little bit excited.

‘I’m nothing.’

That was true. Nothing about him really stood out to the crowd. But this wasn’t a place to showcase Park Daemyung as a person. There was no need to show the audience who he was.

So what if he was ugly? What if he was unconfident?

Sure, those were the right descriptors of him. But that didn’t matter at all. The main character of this show wasn’t Daemyung, but Baksik, his character. There was no need to be intimidated. He was on a stage. All he needs to do is to show his character. Not Daemyung, but Baksik.

Daemyung took a short breath and raised his hand. Scene one, line one.

“Man you people are loud. Do you think you bought out the entire building or what?”

Let’s try being mean.

* * *

Baksik actually had quite a lot of lines. Enough to make Daemyung run out of breath in the middle. The character was in a lot of scenes, and had weight in the entire play. Almost enough weight as the main character.

When Daemyung was first assigned this character, the only thing the club could think was “why”? But right now, not a single one of them was able to doubt Miso’s decision.

Maru took a look at his friend with his chin resting on one hand. He, too, was a little surprised by Miso’s initial decision, but he finally understood why she made that decision. In the last play, Daemyung performed his role of a 40 year old salaryman pretty well. He seemed like the perfect 40 year old, as a matter of fact. Now that Maru thought back on it, Daemyung had done a pretty tremendous job back then.

He could hear his friend’s voice coming through the terrace doors. The boy was running out of breath, making his execution speed up, but they still felt good to hear. Actually, his speech didn’t matter much at all. What really stood out in his performance were his expressions and movements. Watching him complain under his breath, pout, and kick the floor every once in a while was quite comical.

“Good. I was right in making him do Baksik,” Miso noted.

Sometimes the flow of his performance was cut by him looking at his lines, but at least whenever he spoke, he really did look like his character. Soon, after he finished his lines, Daemyung bowed with an embarrassed expression. The audience gave him a pretty big applause.

Daemyung raised his head. He bowed again with a nervous smile before walking back into the cafe.

“Phew. D-d-did I do well?”

Miso gave a thumbs up to the reddened boy. Daemyung sighed deeply before sitting down on his chair.

“How do you feel?”

“...I didn’t think much before I got the applause, but after getting them, I felt really good. This is a lot different from curtain calls.”

“Of course. Those applauses were directed towards you. Congratulations. That was a very good solo performance. More than I had hoped. Just keep doing around that much from now on, and you’ll be just fine. You might get the acting award come this competition…. Well… never mind. That’s good enough.“

Miso glanced at Geunseok as she spoke.

‘The carrot and the stick, huh.’

Maru almost wanted to call Miso a human tamer. As a matter of fact, Geunseok was looking at Daemyung with a very bitter look. The boy moved exactly as Miso wanted him to.

‘Good enough, huh.’

Miso must’ve wanted something more out of Daemyung.

“Good job!” “You did well!”

Daemyung received praises from the rest of the members around him. The nervousness must’ve disappeared, too, seeing as to how he started eating the bread on the table as well. That made Maru laugh a little inside.

“Now, let’s get on with this.”

Iseul was the next to go. She instantly grabbed attention from the crowd with her face. She didn’t get too into it like Daemyung did, but she still managed to get applause from the crowd with her voice and breathing technique.

“You did pretty well, but you would’ve been better if you were more engrossed with your character.”

“I was embarrassed, hehe.”

Iseul trembled a little bit after she came back to her seat. She must’ve been very nervous, despite her calm expression.

“How was it?”

“Mm… I realized how difficult it was to actually say my lines without context. I was also embarrassed since I was in such close proximity to the audience. I could hear everything from them, which made it hard to focus. All in all, I think I just realized just how difficult street performances are.”

“Anything else?”

“Trying to show without telling is very difficult.” “Good, but is that all?”

“Ah, yes.”

“Good, that’s enough.”

Iseul was the second to pass without much criticism.

“Let’s keep going.”

Miso pointed at the second years. Joonghyuk, Minsung, and Danmi all went one by one. Since they had some time to calm down, they didn’t make mistakes like Yoonjung did. The audience must’ve gotten used to this as well, seeing as to how they were waiting for the next student up.

“We should go with the kids with the shorter lines, now.”

Miso looked at Maru.

“You’re up.”

Maru stood up with the cake still in his mouth.

“Wouldn’t this be pretty difficult for Maru?”

“Yeah.”

Daemyung watched Maru exit the cafe, feeling his excited heart starting to calm down. Dojin was right. This would be pretty difficult for Maru, especially since the boy didn’t have that many lines to begin with.

‘A little more than three lines?’

It didn’t even amount to four, when printed on an A4 paper. Plus, a lot of them were just exclamations, not actual lines. Maru’s role in the play was a ‘teenager’. A role that didn’t even have a name. The character had a lot of places where he appeared, but he didn’t actually have any real lines at all.

“Did you also feel pretty awkward out there, by the way? Plays start at act one so that people can understand what’s going on, but we had to go out there and cut everything out except our lines. It felt really weird,” Dojin commented.

Daemyung found himself nodding vigorously, he can totally relate. Not having someone there to support you was bad enough, but the worst problem was that the audience had no idea what the play was about. Instructor Miso had just told them to go out and say their lines, but Daemyung knew that wasn’t all there was to it. The others probably noticed as well.

“The instructor said a while ago that this was a one-man play, right?”

“Yeah.”

“So we probably aren’t just supposed to go there and say our line, right?”

“I mean, just look at what she said to Geunseok. She probably wants us to make the audience understand what our characters are about. Oh, by the way, Daemyung, you were amazing back there. Since when were you so good at acting?”

Dojin nudged Daemyung with his elbow. Daemyung grinned embarrassedly. Being told that his acting improved felt better than being told he was good at studying. At some point in time, acting became the center of who he was as a person. He didn’t know what exactly he wanted to do after high school still, but suddenly, acting didn’t seem like that bad of an idea. “Maybe you might even get the main role next year, if you keep this up,” Dojin said, looking at Geunseok.

Daemyung quickly tried to stop Dojin, but Geunseok had already reacted by this point. Plus…

“Well, it could be possible, as long as he gets skilled enough,” Instructor Miso poured oil into the fire.

Daemyung could only smile nervously between Geunseok, Dojin, and Miso.

‘I might honestly feel better out there instead,’ Daemyung thought, looking out into the terrace.

By this point, Maru had finished positioning himself outside.

“Hey now, look outside everyone,” Miso gestured.

The club members all looked towards Maru. Daemyung turned to look as well.

‘Maru should be fine with his lines.’

His lines were short, so he should come back quick. Plus, he’d never seen the boy embarrassed by anything, so things might end very quickly.

“Hm, hm.”

Maru coughed a few times loudly. Loud enough to be heard indoors. After receiving the attention of the entire cafe, Maru raised his script.

“It’s dinnertime already. Did you all have your meals yet?”

The boy started off with a greeting, instilling a bit of confusion from Daemyung.

“What’s he doing?”

“That’s not his line.”

He could hear the others say. They were right. Maru didn’t have such a line in his script. What was the boy trying to do?

“My name is Han Maru. The play the others from my club performed just now is called The People of Dalseok-dong, a comedy. It’s about a man who moves into Dalseok-dong, and the events that ensue from it.”

Eh? Daemyung bit his lips lightly. This wasn’t right.

“He’s explaining the play?”

“What the heck?”

“Is he nervous?”

Daemyung gripped his fist lightly. An actor, trying to explain what he was acting verbally? Nonsense. An actor’s job is to show, not tell. Trying to tell the story through words… That wasn’t right at all.

Maru continued explaining the story with his normal, everyday voice. He explained what the story of the play was about, and what characters had appeared before him so far. After explaining most of it, Maru stepped forward by one step.

“I have the role of a young man in this play. I don’t have that many lines, actually. Personally, I think my character’s role is kind of like msg, if I were to put it in terms of food. Kind of like this.”

Maru walked sideways for a second before turning to the crowd to exclaim, “what the?” His comic expression made some of the audience laugh.

“These are what all of my lines are like. Here, let me read some of my script to you so that you have a better idea.”

Maru explained everything about what was happening from one to ten, almost like he was explaining something to a child. The audience members started nodding in understanding. They seemed to be making a connection between all the students that came so far, finally.

Daemyung understood what Maru was trying to do here. Still, he thought this was wrong. This wasn’t acting.

“We told him to act, but he’s commentating instead,” Taejoon noted annoyedly. Daemyung had to agree.

It wasn’t like the students before Maru did a bad job because they didn’t know how to explain. They were just trying their best not to explain their roles to the audience.

Because they were actors.

Daemyung scanned the second years very quickly. They didn’t seem very happy either. Next, he turned to look at Miso. Sure enough, her eyebrows were pointed up straight up into the sky.

After a little more time, Maru finished his last line. He ended his little monologue with, ‘thank you for allowing me some of your time’, and stepped back inside. Daemyung found himself becoming very nervous inside. He could just see Miso shouting angrily at Maru the moment the boy came to their table.

Strangely, though, Miso didn’t say anything. So Yoonjung took the initiative to speak instead.

“Han Maru.”

“Yes?”

“What did you do?”

“The instructor told me to say my lines, so I did.”

“With plenty of explanation to go with it?”

“Yes.”

“What?”

“Is there a problem?”

“Of course there is. Instructor Miso told us to act, not explain.”

“Did she? I don’t recall her ever saying that.”

“Eh?” Daemyung found himself exclaiming. Maru was right. Instructor Miso only told the club to say their lines to the audience, and nothing else.

“But if you’re an actor, you should do your best to make the audience understand through your acting.”

Most of the club nodded at Yoonjung’s words. The girl was right. But Maru’s response was that of confusion.

“I don’t know. I don’t think I’m that good of an actor. Of course, that might be possible for you seniors and the rest of the club. Since you all practiced a lot. But such a thing isn’t possible for me.”

“Do you think we don’t know that? We know we can’t do it either. I made a mistake too, but at least I...”

When Yoonjung paused for a second, Maru butted in.

“You shouldn’t do that if you know you can’t do it. The audience is taking some of their time in the day to look at what we’re doing. We can’t let these people down with subpar performance. If you know you can’t do something, you should try something new that actually works.”

“......”

“I don’t understand what exactly acting is. I’ve never thought of myself as an actor, and I don’t want to describe myself as one either. I’m just a student in the acting club, here to learn a little bit about what acting is.”

Maru sounded confident. Daemyung found himself getting embarrassed. It felt like his lie was getting exposed. Why? Daemyung turned to look at Dojin for a second. The other boy seemed to be thinking as well.

“I know very well that I can’t let the audience understand what I’m doing through acting. When I went out to the terrace, I noticed some of the people saying, ‘what are these kids doing?’ So I asked them if they were curious. A lot of them told me to explain what was going on. So I did my best to do exactly that.”

Maru sat down on his seat as he continued talking.

“If I was a pro, I would try to solve everything by acting alone. I know that’s the best way to do things as well. But I’m an amateur. Amateurs have their own method of doing things. Pros need to do things their way, and amateurs need to do things their way. That’s what I think.”

A pro’s method, and an amateur’s method. Daemyung turned to look at the other customers in the cafe. They weren’t at a stage right now. They were in a cafe. So are those people out on the terrace not audience members?

No, they were the audience for sure. Audience members who were allotting some of their time to look at bad acting from students. Did Daemyung manage to satisfy these people, in that case?

Daemyung shook his head. He only got into his acting to get over his nervousness. Thinking back on it, he never actually looked at the audience either. All he did was spit out a few of his lines, and come back. Was that enough? Was that what instructor Miso wanted?

Once again, his mind went back to the phrase, ‘one-man play’. Daemyung felt his cheeks redden in embarrassment. He finally realized why he felt embarrassed. It was because he got praised.

He was embarrassed at himself for feeling happy that he got praised for doing something so trivial. Instructor Miso told him he did a good job. But then again, praises only came towards you when you exceeded a person’s expectations.

‘Perhaps my standards were low to begin with.’

Perhaps instructor Miso didn’t even expect them to communicate with the audience? Perhaps she was just satisfied with having the students say their lines well enough?

[Well… never mind. That’s good enough.]

Perhaps that wasn’t what instructor Miso wanted? After all, all Daemyung had done was to express his emotions to the audience without expecting a single response. Was he being too overconfident, thinking of himself as a good actor just because he said his lines without stuttering?

The word ‘actor’... Daemyung started using it to define himself without really thinking about it at some point. He thought about the actors he saw at Hyehwa station a while back. One of them even managed to incorporate noises from the audience into the play.

There, the audience and the actors were completely in sync, conversing with each other.

Pros have their own method, and amateurs have their own…

‘Maybe I was unable to even do something that I could do?’

Daemyung took a look at Maru. The other boy seemed very confident that what he did wasn’t wrong. It wasn’t overconfidence. It was an expression of a person who did something right.

“It’s a little disrespectful to the audience if we just ignore them, I think.”

Maru grabbed his cup to drink, almost as if he was finished talking. He realized his cup was empty, and walked up to the counter as if nothing was wrong. Right then, Daemyung could hear Miso mutter to herself very quietly.

“At least one guy in this club knows what a real play is.”

Daemyung felt his neck itch a little as soon as he heard that.

‘Ah.’

The three things that constituted a play. The stage, the actor, and…

‘The audience.’

Who was Daemyung’s lines directed at? For who did Daemyung act for? Daemyung chewed his lips nervously.

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