Chapter 70

“Yo. I went to take a smoke yesterday, and fuck, I saw the gym teacher outside, right? He was beating up the kids behind the building. Shit was insane.”

“That fucker’s crazy. The guy probably comes here just to beat kids up.”

The kids said with a shiver, even Changhu knew the gym teacher. The one teacher whose background was incredibly enigmatic. It’d be more believable if the school told them they just hired a gangster to do some dirty work. After all, the teacher beat up students pretty much whenever he felt like it. Already, many of the first years were sacrificed to the man’s PVC pipe.

“We really have to be careful of that guy. He’s crazy.”

Changhu had to nod in agreement. There was a reason why engineering schools had a bad rep. It was exactly because of teachers like them.

“Ah, I heard Dansu was taking us to karaoke today. You guys coming?”

“Dansu? Him? Why?”

“I heard a kind idiot gave him some money today.”

“Hah, kind idiot? He found himself a nice wallet, didn’t he? Oh, by the way, I saw a lot of middle school kids hanging out near the karaoke. They just spit out money if we talk to them a little.”

“Wow, you’re stooping that low?”

“They have a lot of cash.” “Oh, really? Nice.”

Middle schoolers were quick to part with their money with a little bit of encouragement. They would often even cry if you had a cigarette in your mouth.

“I managed to buy a new MP3 with that money, you know. These kids have a lot of money nowadays, heh.”

Changhu’s friend took out an MP3 that was worth around 300,000 won from his pocket. It actually looked pretty nice. Changhu fiddled with his pretty new MP3 before grinning.

“Huh, I should change mine too.”

Especially if there was such a good fishing spot near school.

“In any case.”

Changhu looked at Maru, who was sleeping at his desk. The guy would often rebel at him, which was pretty annoying at times. Of course, Dojin was the really annoying guy of the two. He wanted to beat both of them pretty badly, but now really didn’t seem like the time. Especially since he knew Dojin would bite back.

“Oh, did you hear?”

“What?”

“I heard this as I was drinking with a second year, but apparently the acting club had a problem last year.”

“A problem?”

“Apparently they almost burned down the school, so the teachers all harbor a dislike of the club.”

Changhu thought back of an incident that happened a few days ago. The teacher had hit Dojin across the head, muttering ‘this is why acting club kids are…’ to himself.

“Is that so.”

Weren’t these guys going to some competition this time? They probably wouldn’t be able to go if there happened to be an unfortunate accident. How nice.

“Hey, Dojin,” he called out. The boy immediately turned to look at him with a frown.

“Be careful of fires. I heard there was an accident? You have to be careful, don’t you?”

“.......”

Dojin immediately grit his teeth. Oh? This really must be the other boy’s weak point.

“Let’s be careful, okay?”

Changhu immediately felt his shoulders loosen up a bit more.

* * *

“You endured well,” Maru said, patting Dojin on the back. Dojin looked like he chewed on something bitter.

“How’d he manage to learn about that?”

“He probably heard it somewhere. He has a good head on his shoulders, so he’ll probably try to use it against you.”

Changhu wasn’t like a typical delinquent at all, the boy knew exactly how communities worked. Now that he knew their weak point, he would start trying to test the waters to see how far he could go with this.

“If it wasn’t for the competition… Ugh!”

Dojin punched his palm with a fist. He must care about the club a lot, seeing how he managed to endure all of this still.

“You just need to lay low for a bit. He’ll grow tired of it soon enough.”

“But what about my pride? I can’t even dare imagine having to lay low in front of that kid.”

“You’re really going to be angered by someone like him? You need to get over stuff like this. You’re an adult.”

“...Well, true.”

“That’s enough then, isn’t it?”

Maru dragged Dojin up the stairs. After coming up to the fifth floor, the three of them opened the door to the auditorium where could they see Miso standing amongst all the students.

“Get over here!” Miso shouted.

Maru ran over, thinking that the fun was just about to start.

“We’re going to stretch a bit before going straight in. We’re also going to be making our props and costumes today, so you better be ready.”

“Yes!”

“Alright, mouth muscles, go.”

The students began stretching their mouths individually once Miso gave them the go ahead. Some of them stretched their mouth widely to loosen up the muscles there, and others moved their tongue all over the place to stress that too. Some even worked their lips a little bit.

“Ah! Ahh!”

“Haaah...”

They shouted loudly to open up their vocal cords, and then let out air to open up their nostrils. Maru followed suit. It wasn’t that difficult, since he’d seen them do this many times before. Actually, it almost felt like he learned this in the past. Maybe he attended an acting lesson when he was a road manager? In any case, this definitely didn’t feel like the first time.

Next up, it was time to stretch the rest of their muscles. The club members stood in a circle, and started walking slowly. One step every ten seconds. They were making sure that when they walked, that their balance wasn’t lost, their arms were in the right place, and that their feet were landing in the right places. Unlike what it looked like, this practice actually required a lot of concentration.

The club members returned to their normal pace once Miso clapped.

“Phew.”

The kids sighed in relief, but then.

“Why are you sighing?! Pay attention to your breathing!” Miso immediately shouted.

The air in the auditorium had turned incredibly heavy. After around ten more minutes of this, the club members split up to start stretching on their own.

Oftentimes in small theaters, actors were very close to the audience. But in larger ones, especially the one in Dream Hall, it was difficult to discern the audience’s faces. That’s why actors were often required to make very large movements, have very clear diction, and a very loud voice.

In everyday life, it was possible for people to make out emotions just from the way a person blinked, or the way their lips twitched. But being on a stage made it difficult to make out such expressions. Oftentimes, overreacting to everything looked just right to the audience from the stage. That was the reason why many actors reached out for the sky or whatnot during their monologues.

Small movements, as a matter of fact, only served to frustrate the audience. No matter what role you were playing, it was essential that you act “big”.

“Come here, we’re going to do one reading before practicing our movement.”

As the club members started doing the readings without their scripts, Miso moved around with her green tape, marking out boundaries on the stage. Of course, the club members knew exactly what she was doing at this point.

“This is the size of the stage in the Ansan Art Hall. The competition will take place there in October. It was built fairly recently, so the stage is pretty big, and they have a lot of tools we can use. But! The big stage will be a minus for you guys. The play will look really bad on stage if your movements are even a little bit off. I’ll take you there next time, so just be aware for now that it’s about this big.”

Last time in the competition, the club competed at the Suwon Art Center. It was not a place designated to house plays, but at an auditorium meant for various events. But this time, things were different. They were performing a play at an actual place meant for plays.

“So it’s bigger than the...”

“College competition? Of course.”

“Hah.”

The club members sighed, looking at the green tape below them.

“It’s now October 18th, we have exactly a month left. I have already registered us for the competitions, and there isn’t going to be a prelim this time around, since this is more of a festival. Most teams are there to have fun. We’re different, though. We’re here to win. We’re going to win over there, and we’re going to win at the winter competition in December. Understood?”

“Yes!”

Miso stretched out her hand with a clap.

“Ok, let’s cheer ourselves up before we actually go into this.”

The club members all stretched out their hands in unison. Maru put his hand on in the middle as well. This was the first time he was taking part in something like this. He didn’t feel anything big rising up in his chest, but he did smile.

Finally, he was a step inside the circle.

“Blue Sky!”

“Yeah!”

Practice began shortly after.

* * *

Dalseok-dong was a fictional town, a suburban town that was right between the farmlands and the city.

“On top of a big hill lies a little town. The road up the hill is littered with the occasional streetlights, with no trees in sight. The old streetlights are leaning a little forward, threatening to snap, while being covered with all sorts of posters stuck on them.”

Maru closed his eyes, listening to Miso talk. He was trying to imagine the setting, trying to immerse himself enough to become one of Dalseok-dong’s residents.

“You’ll be able to see a house next to one of these lights. The glass door that leads inside is so dirty that you actually can’t see in any more. There are small windows for the basement floor next to this glass door, and you notice yellow curtains draped inside. This house has three floors. Basement, first floor, and second floor, its exterior made out of feeble brown bricks that appear ready to crumble. Inside, you hear the scoldings of an overbearing wife, the sighs of a student preparing for college entrance exams, and the embarrassed introductions of a new couple. I hear a dog barking in the background as well. What about cats?”

Yoonjung answered with ‘I think I can hear them too’.

“Well, there must be cats around as well, then. Next to that house is a little store with a blue roof. Inside it, an old couple is arguing with each other yet again today. Granny?”

Soyeon immediately stepped up to speak. She was an old lady that lost her dentures, acting seamlessly in her role, which made Maru laugh a little.

“What about the grandpa?”

“You old hag! You’re spouting bullshit today again!”

It was Taejoon. His voice carried a lot of annoyance. Understandable for someone who received a whack in the back of the head in the midst of a chess game. Again, some laughter.

Miso closed her mouth for a second. In the meantime, Maru worked to clarify the image of Dalseok-dong in his head. The others were probably doing the same. After about five minutes…

“Stop,” Miso said.

“Try to clarify the image of your characters, using the image of the town you have. You need a very clear image in your head.”

“Yes.”

“Okay, let’s go straight in with the movement. We’re going to slowly figure this out from scene one, so make sure to take notes. We’re going to practice this once, and go straight into doing runs.”

They had to finish the play before October. It was understandable that their practices would be rushed. After all, they had only a single month to do this. Just because the Anyang Art Festival was a passing competition did not justify an incomplete play. Plus, Miso wouldn’t accept that for the life of her.

Maru stood outside the green tape with a pen in one hand, and a script in the other.

‘Well, so I really ended up doing this, huh.’

Today especially, that steel chair he used to sit on at the end of the auditorium felt far away from him. Right now, he was a part of the club for real.

‘Might as well go to the finals, at the very least.’

He was certain that she would go to the finals. He knew that for sure, somehow. They would meet once again upon the stage.

“Maru! Stop grinning and focus!”

“Yes!”

Maru fixed his expression immediately.

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