Chapter 71

After Soyeon wrote her notes, she slouched a little and pretended to shove something in her mouth.

“That’s when Geunseok turns around.”

The two’s eyes met once Geunseok turned around, right after Soyeon yelled at him for passing around cheap rice cakes to the neighbors.

“Right, this is where the audience is supposed to laugh. How do we do this in order to make it look more dramatic?”

“I think it’d be good to exaggerate as much as possible. The script says the granny’s supposed to cover her mouth with her hands, but what if her jaw hangs loose enough to make the rice cake in her mouth drop on the floor?”

Soyeon immediately dropped her jaw in response.

“Good. What about you, Geunseok?”

“I think I’d be a little shocked, since I don’t know much about the granny just yet. Maybe I’d smile awkwardly.”

“Good. That’s when Taejoon appears.”

Taejoon peeked out from where the little store was supposed to be. Of course, this was another instance where he is caught eating Geunseok’s rice cake.

“Ugh, damn it!”

He made a face, as if he just saw something he shouldn’t have seen. He pretended to spit the rice cake out of his mouth, and went back inside.

Huh, this is pretty funny.

Maru found himself smiling almost instinctively. This wasn’t enough to make him roll on the floor with laughter, but it did set the mood very nicely. Some of the audience might actually laugh with some proper makeup.

“Good. You guys should figure out the rest from here on. If this gets too emotional, you guys will just look like you’re fighting, so be very careful of that. Also, Taejoon, that expression was very good just now. Try to see if you can exaggerate it some more. Next!”

Miso stepped into the green tape with her script. This was where Daemyung and Geunseok would meet for the first time, and also where Daemyung’s monologue was. The nonsensical monologue was supposed to be the humorous point in this scene. The scene’s success or failure was depending on how Daemyung acted.

“Come here, Daemyung.”

Daemyung stumbled into the scene with a tired look. His hands were in his pockets, his legs stood with no energy, and his lips twitched like he wanted to start blabbering. The thirty-year old student was very much ready to start complaining about the world.

“Alright, start talking.”

As soon as Miso got back to her seat, Daemyung started talking. His voice exploded outwards very clearly. All those hours of practice at class were really beginning to shine now. On top of that voice, he started layering emotions. Daemyung started listing the reasons why he couldn’t pass the college entrance exams.

This was the turning point for the character, who’s been saying pretty logical stuff all this time.

“No matter how much I study, I can’t pass if I’m unlucky! Society is incredibly unfair!”

Geunseok pretended to hand Daemyung a rice cake as he spoke.

“I don’t think you can blame society for that though...”

“What? How old are you?”

“Me? I’m twenty-eight.”

“Clearly, you lived a failed life. Do you even know what Madam Smith’s invisible hand is?”

“Madam?”

“Yes!”

“........”

“I knew it. To think you don’t even know who the famous Madam Smith was. This is exactly why people should study. But, no matter how much you study, you’re bound to fail if you’re unlucky! Ugh, this world is so unfair! It can’t even recognize a genius like me!”

Daemyung started pointing at the audience seats, as if he was shifting the blame on them, too. Maybe it was because of Daemyung’s kind-looking face, but the boy only managed to attach a dumb and comical personality onto his character. After a bit more of his monologue, Daemyung pulled out a phone from his pocket. And…

“What? A meeting? Of course I’m coming! Study? Haha, I’ll pass as long as I’m lucky!”

As soon as Daemyung’s words turned out to be a lie, Geunseok cleared his throat a bit awkwardly.

“You just said you studied three years straight...”

Geunseok scanned Daemyung up and down. Daemyung closed his phone before saying,

“We’re short by one dude.”

“.......”

“The girls are pretty.”

“...Let’s go.”

The two exit the stage each with an arm around the other’s shoulders.

“The lights go out, and the sounds of a club starts playing. After a few more seconds, the lights turn on again.”

Joonghyuk and Danmi stepped into the stage after Miso gave the directions. Joonghyuk played the character of the weak husband, and Danmi, his wife. The characters stood in front of the little store as they spoke. Joonghyuk’s shoulders drooped more and more, managing to make himself look like a sad, wet dog in the process. Danmi, on the other hand, started making her husband suddenly look a lot better once Soyeon came onto the stage.

“Honey...”

“Be quiet for a bit.”

“I’m tired. I worked out too much at the pool today.”

“Please!”

“Can we go back ho...”

“Shut your mouth, if you don’t want to swim in the Jordan river!”

When Danmi shouted, Taejoon ran out from the store shouting, ‘It’s not my time yet! I’m only a hundred years old!‘

“Hey! You came out too fast! You have to come out immediately after the line ends!”

“I’m sorry.”

“Remember it next time.”

“Yes!”

“Also, Soyeon.”

“Yes.”

“Why are you smiling? You can’t let yourself show when you’re acting. You can’t show that kind of stuff to the audience!”

“...I’m sorry.”

“I told you that comedies are hard, didn’t I? How many times do I need to tell you, making people laugh is harder than making people cry! Focus. There needs to be a reason behind every single movement on stage, unprepared laughter on the stage is nothing but a mistake. Only when you complete the play can you even start to think about doing improv. Remember that.”

“Yes.”

“We’re going to take a short break before moving on. Think about the criticisms I gave you so far, and try to improve where you think you failed. I can’t help you much more after that. Got it?”

The air in the auditorium loosened a lot more once Miso clapped. The whole club dropped down onto the floor with a sigh. Once practice started, Miso turned into a completely different person. She shouted a lot outside of practice, of course, but everyone knew that was her playing around. But once practice started… She truly looked angry. Well, at least everyone was used to it now.

The club members formed their little groups. They got together in groups of two or three, and practiced their lines with each other. Maru just watched all of this from a step away. His character didn’t have any lines he exchanged with others. He would just step in every once in a while after a scene ended, saying ‘I knew that would happen’ before exiting. There were a few instances where he would interact with other characters, but it was so short that he honestly had to wonder if he even needed practice.

“So, how’s practice?” Miso asked.

She had dyed her hair from blonde to black. Maru didn’t know if she did this for herself, or because of Taesik, but he had to admit, black did look better on her.

“It’s as hard as I imagined.”

“Really? Not worse than you thought?”

“They say even a dog in a school would be able to read after three years. I’ve observed for a long time, so it’s a given I’d have decent expectations of what I would have coming to myself.”

“That’s three years, though. Well, not like I don’t believe you.”

Miso sat down next to Maru after looking at the clock. The club members in front of them looked like they were ready to practice until the sun went down.

“They’re pretty passionate, aren’t they?”

“Yes.”

“Why don’t you join them?”

“What use would any of them have in having a character like mine join their practice? I can just join in when we’re just about done with the planning. Isn’t that the sort of the character this is?”

“You’re right. Your character’s a bit of a strange one in a small play like this. After all, there are multiple comedic instances he has to handle by himself.”

“His lines are short, though.”

“Oh? And how many times have you spoken those ‘short’ lines?”

Miso looked at Maru mockingly. Maru thought for a second. How many times did he practice his lines again?

“Around thirty times. That’s about how many times I read them to memorize it.”

“Are you satisfied with that number?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t even know when I should be satisfied to begin with. All I want right now is to not make mistakes.”

“That’s important, yeah. But… Don’t you have any greed for acting?”

“Greed?”

Greed. Maru took a look at the club members. These were the people who had the right to stand on the stage, and decorate it. One could only be incensed by greed through hard work, and that greed could only be satisfied by the talented. Maru didn’t belong to either of the two.

“The people who should really be greedy are in front of me.”

“Of course these guys are greedy. They don’t want to repeat their past mistakes. I’m just curious what you think.”

“I just want to work hard. Nothing more, nothing less.”

“There’s a cash price of a million won in cash if you get awarded the best actor prize at the winter nationals. What do you think about that?”

“That I’m a little greedy for.”

“You’re incredibly materialistic, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I love money.”

“Why don’t you go for it, then?”

“The best actor prize?”

“Yes.”

“As an extra?”

“Scene stealers are always short, but they still leave a big impact.”

Maru watched as Miso smiled playfully, he naturally found himself looking into her eyes for a second.

[Did you think I gave that role to you for nothing?]

“Is there something different about my character?”

“You must’ve had a reason for giving it to me.”

For a brief second, Miso’s face was overtaken by a color of surprise. Maru laughed a little. So even the headstrong Miso could look like this, huh. He turned back to look at the students again. They were moving around in different poses as they practiced. They were all trying to make everything natural.

“Why me?” Maru asked.

“Why you?”

“Yes. There’s a lot of other kids who want to get into acting over there. The second years are already very passionate, and a lot of the first years became passionate recently as well. You told me before, didn’t you? You were giving me a chance because I wasn’t desperate. That doesn’t make sense now, does it? Shouldn’t instructors give chances to people who are desperate?”

Miso looked up with a thoughtful face before sighing.

“Yeah, you’re right. It’s more fair for me to give chances to the desperate. But the world isn’t very fair, is it? Remember what Geunsoo told you? The monster of acting chooses its own people. All that means is that in this business, it all comes down to talent. You might not understand this, but once you become a teacher, you become greedy. You want to create someone who can go into uncharted territory.”

Miso looked happier than she has ever been. Was that what artists were like? Maru never felt this kind of greed when he worked in an office. As a matter of fact, he only felt jealous and angry. To be more honest… He kind of wanted his talented juniors to fail. He knew that was the wrong mindset to have, but that was just reality. But this woman was telling him that she wanted to raise someone who could surpass her.

“Wouldn’t you feel annoyed if a talented junior was getting all of the spotlight on the same stage as you?”

“Of course I would. I might even regret my own actions of raising him that much.”

“So why?”

“I told you before, didn’t I? I have a very good eye for people. I take great pride in this ability as well. Thanks to it, I know pretty well how far I’m going to get. I’ve kind of hit my limit at teaching students, I don’t think I can go any further. Remember what I said about the play I was in? About how it failed in the middle, and I decided to come here?”

Maru remembered. That was the first thing she said after coming back to the school.

“That was all a lie. I dyed my hair and auditioned for a role I wanted, and I didn’t get it. I knew the director and everything, but man. It was bad.”

“I see.”

“I mean, I didn’t want you guys getting all depressed just because of me. Plus, despite all this, I’m actually really good at teaching. I’m decent at acting, too. I just can’t go above and beyond. Maybe that’s why I’ve kind of given up on bettering myself. Sometimes I wonder if I would bother to raise students if I was as skilled as Geunsoo.”

“Why don’t you practice more?”

“Of course I practice. I can land a role as a small character any time I want. But I could never take the center stage.”

Her smile didn’t seem very happy.

“You’re living a very complicated life too, huh. That’s a surprise.”

“What?”

“I kind of thought you were a single-celled organism.”

“...Do you have a death wish?”

“I still don’t understand, though. You can just push people relying on your instinct?”

“You still don’t realize that half of this world is pretty much based upon amazing accidents, do you?”

“If you’re trying to reference penicillin, I caught on already. You don’t have to.”

“...You notice things way too quick. Anyway, I just think this is one step into an amazing accident.”

“I sometimes think this, but it really feels like you have a talent for speaking like a character in a play. You’re very thick-faced. I wouldn’t be able to say a line like that from pure embarrassment.”

“I’m embarrassed, too! But that’s the kind of stuff I need to say to move you.”

“......”

Maru could only shake his head, ‘What an extraordinary person’. She was incredibly persistent. Problem was… She was actually getting him kind of excited. That expectation of hers, to be specific. Receiving high expectations from others tended to be either extremely stressful, or pleasant. Thankfully, the way Miso conducted herself didn’t make Maru stressed at all.

“Oh, and one more thing.”

“What is it?”

“You said money was why you didn’t want to go into acting, right?”

“It’s not just because of that.”

“It’s one of the big reasons though, right?”

“Well, yes.”

“Let’s make a deal.”

“Deal?”

“You just have to meet someone I know.”

Maru looked up at Miso. Meet someone she knows? What did she mean? The woman was smiling joyfully at him at the moment.

Ah, no. He had to retract that statement.

She was smiling like a wily fox.

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