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A Thousand Faces Chapter 9

Updated: Jan 2


The stage plunged into darkness. 

  

Gradually, the lights came on. 

  

Junwoo closed his eyes. 

  

It was the first time I had ever acted in front of an audience with the intention of doing so. 

  

It was an audience of less than twenty in a somewhat disorganized seating arrangement. 

  

Some of them were texting, others dozing off from the start, possibly having lost hope with the unexpected appearance of an actor they neither knew nor recognized. 

  

The majority had come to make the most of their time, not wanting to waste the ticket they had booked and the money spent on nearby accommodation. 

  

Center stage. 

  

Junwoo lifted his head, and the light from the spotlight enveloped his face. 

  

"...I am still trapped in those times. Now that I have lost you, the world has confined me to darkness and silence." 

  

It was a sorrowful voice bidding farewell to a beloved. 

  

An audience member, absentmindedly resting his chin on his hand, involuntarily raised his head. 

  

The young actor's face, which looked so innocent, contrasted sharply with the emotions that were conveyed in his voice. 

  

This scene involved a long, introspective monologue. The original lead actor, who had practiced this role, struggled with it throughout the rehearsal. 

  

From the first encounter with a lover, the moment of first love, the initial separation, reunion, crisis, and finally bidding farewell with her death—every moment of the long time spent with the lover had to be portrayed solo on the stage. 

  

The only prop was a chair placed at the center. The crucial point of this scene was to dynamically convey emotions, changing with the passage of time. 

  

"The moment I first saw you, it felt like time had come to a standstill. It was an emotion I had never experienced before, as if being born again." 

  

His gaze lingered in the air. His sad face from a moment ago was completely gone as if it had never happened. 

  

Eyes that trembled as if they had fallen in love at first sight. Movement that stopped as if their breath had been taken away. 

  

To the audience, it seemed as if a real couple was present on one side of the stage. 

  

Blink. 

  

The color of the spotlight changed. 

  

"The moment when you held my hand and smiled brightly..." 

  

He placed one hand on his chest, which was swelling with emotion as if to feel his own heartbeat. 

  

Walking to the left side of the stage, Junwoo was swiftly immersing himself in a different emotion. 

  

Even with just a few lines, the changed expression and voice indicated that he was portraying the moment when he first felt love for his partner. 

  

The audience began adjusting their postures one by one. 

  

Subsequently, with each change in lighting, the location and time on the stage kept changing constantly. 

  

Blink. 

  

"The first farewell. I couldn't do anything. Nothing..." 

  

Unbearable pain trembled and flowed out from the fingertips of Junwoo, who was kneeling and clutching the floor. 

  

As Junwoo stood up, the chair fell over. It symbolized the shattered emotions of the character. 

  

Blink. 

  

"You and I were living in completely different worlds. My past, struggles, choices I had no choice but to make. You never understood any of it. How could you say such things to me? You were everything to me!" 

  

A heart that feels misunderstood about the life it has lived. 

  

From the beginning to the end of the lines, Junwoo's face expressed resentment, anger, pathos, and loneliness in those brief moments. It was a stage that hadn't even lasted thirty minutes, yet every emotion came across powerfully. 

  

The breathless audience couldn't take their eyes off Junwoo. Apart from Junwoo on the stage, the theater seemed frozen in time, silent. 

  

Mansik, who had been watching from behind the stage, was no different. He was confident that Junwoo would do well, but he didn't expect it to be this impactful. Mansik was initially watching Junwoo on the stage with admiration. Now, he had become one of the audience members. 

  

The employee had been lost in thought for a while. 

  

The employee, with an absent-mindedly wide-open mouth, unintentionally asked, 

  

"…Where on earth did you find such a monster?" 

  

Mansik was so engrossed in the play that he heard nothing else. 

  

Even though Junwoo's acting was not technically perfect, with poor pronunciation, breathing, and other techniques, Mansik didn't notice any of it. Everyone in the theater was mesmerized by Junwoo's performance. 

  

Mansik finally realized something. 

  

He had been thinking about how long it would take him to memorize and learn the script, but that was meaningless. 

  

"It's not memorization." 

  

That guy was making the character he took on his own, embodying the entire life of the role. 

  

Even the lines were gradually changing with each surge of emotion. 

  

Mansik was so absorbed in the performance that he didn't even notice. 

  

In fact, it seemed like the character himself would have said those words. It was so convincing that it was hard to believe that he was acting. 

  

"Is this really the acting of a seventeen-year-old who has never been on stage before...?" 

  

In addition, unlike in the rehearsal room, this time, there was only one prop, a chair. His delicate movements made it feel like he was actually opening the door, holding a large bouquet of flowers, and even like someone was there. 

  

"As your death slowly approaches." 

  

Midway through Act 1. 

  

A supporting character walked onto the stage. 

  

In the final scene, the supporting actor, who had succumbed to his illness and died, collapsed to the floor of the stage. 

  

"Don't go, Ellie. Please, don't do this." 

  

"To be honest, there's something I couldn't bring myself to say in response to your words back then..." 

  

A look of surprise crossed the face of the actress embraced by Junwoo. 

  

"Wel.., the reas, reason is..." 

  

Even Munsik, who was behind the stage, was equally taken aback. 

  

Whoops! Looks like I forgot my line. 

  

Being a novice actress with limited stage experience, this kind of thing happened from time to time. 

  

In real-time theater performances, there was no room for mistakes. 

  

"Um, well," 

  

Even if you flub your line, you must continue as if nothing happened. The rookie actor kept stumbling over his lines in the same section after he messed up his line once. 

  

It could have been perfect. 

  

The moment came when Mansik swept his hands across his face. 

  

"No, don't say it." 

  

It wasn't Junwoo's cue to enter. What's this? When Mansik looked up again, the supporting actor's face was buried in Junwoo's embrace. Junwoo's shoulders were trembling as he held the actor close. 

  

"You don't have to say anything more. I knew it. So now..." 

  

Mansik couldn't take his eyes off. 

  

He's deliberately exploding emotions, capturing everyone's attention. 

  

The supporting actor's dying words, spoken with his new actions and dialogue, seemed to be gasping for breath in the face of imminent death. The supporting actor's body slumped in Junwoo's arms, showed the complete stillness of death. 

  

The scene would have been incomplete if the supporting actor's face, which had once convulsed in panic, had continued to convulse even after his death. 

  

Tears rolled down Junwoo's cheeks as if he couldn't accept it. 

  

Unbelievable quick judgment and coping skills for his age. 

Mansik couldn't hide his admiration. 

  

The sound of sniffling could be heard from the audience, who were completely immersed in the stage and moved to tears. 

  

The altered scene created a more dramatic ending than the original script had intended. 

  

As soon as the lights went out, the audience rose to their feet and began to applaud. It was unusual for such a reaction at the end of the first act, even though the play wasn't over yet. 

  

In contrast, Mansik and the staff could do nothing but stand there in a daze. The play had ended, yet they remained frozen in place. 

  

The staff was still unable to shake off the impact of the mysterious boy who suddenly appeared. 

  

"This was prepared in just twelve hours?" 

  

Typically, actors will need over two weeks just to analyze and understand their characters. Memorizing lines, practicing, and coordinating movements with props came next in the process. 

  

Twelve hours. That's enough time to be completely distracted by thinking about the lines you've memorized. But to make up for the supporting actor's mistake at the end? 

  

"I can't believe it." 

  

"Neither can I." 

  

"He said he's seventeen, right?" 

  

"Yeah, that's also hard to believe." 

  

"I wonder if he's ever even been in love. How could he prepare for that kind of performance in such a short time?" 

  

"You're mistaken if you think he only prepared the acting." 

  

"What?" 

  

"Haven't you noticed? He changed everything – the stage concept, chair sizes, movements, lighting colors. It's all his doing." 

  

"Oh, I just realized... wait a minute. Are you serious? You listened to all of that?" 

  

"Well, emotions are supposed to be like this here, and lines should be delivered like that there. Since the last time, they've been saying things that are downright incomprehensible... Ah, I don't know. Anyway, I only know one thing for sure—I understand one thing better than anyone here." 

  

Before the start of Act 2, Junwoo is catching his breath in the backstage dressing room. 

  

His eyes widened. 

  

What kind of feeling is this? 

  

Junwoo's heart was racing. 

  

It was an unfamiliar emotion, something he had never experienced before. 

  

It wasn't his first time acting. 

  

Even in his past life, when he roamed with a group, he already played numerous roles. 

  

He wasn't unaware of the innate talent bestowed upon him. 

  

But this time was different. It couldn't be simply explained as just being enjoyable. 

  

The moment Junwoo stepped onto the stage, he looked down at the audience. 

  

The focused gazes were directed at him. 

  

The audience, moved to tears, wept without inhibitions. 

  

When emotions peaked, it felt like everyone in the theater, including himself, had momentarily visited a different world. 

  

It was strange, but definitely not a negative feeling. 

  

A second life. 

  

He vowed to die and even gave up his name. He believed that he could live that way. 

  

"Could it really be possible?" 

  

In the current moment, the years spent hiding and living seem somewhat foolish. 

  

What if Ilnam had seen this? 

  

Shudder

  

In the backstage dressing room, the rookie actor, who had become distraught over a mistake, was still trembling from the repercussions of his error. 

  

The rookie actor, taken aback like a deer in the headlights when Mansik opened the door and walked in, quickly lowered his head. 

  

"I'm sorry. I was just too surprised," 

  

Whoosh. 

  

"...?" 

  

"You bastard! You were just playing hard to get, weren't you?! You knew you were this good all along!" 

  

Mansik's attention was elsewhere. 

  

Mansik's face was beaming, a stark contrast to his usual expression, which would be filled with stern warnings about audience etiquette. He quickly soothed the rookie, who was confused and had tears welling up in his eyes. Then, without further words, he grabbed Junwoo's shoulders and shook him. 

  

Junwoo soon came to his senses and pulled away the excited Mansik. 

  

"I feel nauseous." 

  

Junwoo stood there empty-handed. 

  

The scene contrasted with the rookie, who was carefully reviewing the script to avoid making mistakes again. 

  

"But don't you read the script? We're going on soon." 

  

"I didn't bring it." 

  

"Humph. I guess you don't need it anymore. What's with that attitude of his? He's been acting so high and mighty, and now he's gotten the role. Unbelievable." 

  

It wasn't a scolding tone. Mansik, with a triumphant air, was already hanging on every word. 

  

Junwoo glanced briefly at the rookie, who was murmuring lines while looking at the script. 

  

"I just don't want to be trapped by the lines." 

  

"What the heck?! Are you being deliberately dense again?" 

  

Hold on. Mansik felt like he had heard similar words somewhere before. 

  

It was back when he used to run around the field before establishing the theater. Mansik recalled something actor Jeong Minsu had said during an interview at a preview back then. 

  

[Preparation means carrying the character in your heart. If you keep burying your face in the script on set, you unknowingly get trapped by the lines. Just by understanding the character's emotions, the lines come out naturally. That's why I purposely try not to look at the script on set. Haha. It's an unfortunate thing. But with over twenty years in the acting business, I've come to realize...]  

  

Jeong Minsu, a distinguished actor with over 20 major works, was well-regarded. Now, the words spoken by an actor with over twenty years of experience came from the mouth of the guy who just finished the first act of his debut play. It could sound like boasting, but strangely, it didn't come off as arrogant. 

  

Why do I sense expertise in that one statement of his? 

  

"And there are a lot of unfamiliar terms in this script, so it's giving me a headache." 

  

Right, this guy still didn't really know the stage jargon properly. 

  

Mansik blamed himself for blindly thrusting the script at him without properly explaining anything. 

  

Where should he start, and how? He wasn't already skilled enough to intervene. 

  

Mansik racked his brains for something he could do for the guy. 

  

"Sir." 

  

As Junwoo called out to him, Mansik, who had been lost in thought, raised his head. 

  

"I'll be back." 

  

Junwoo, smiling at Mansik, turned toward the stage. 

  

There was a subtle difference in his eyes, albeit minor, compared to when he first stepped on stage. 

  

Act 2.  

  

After the first act, the audience had completely prepared themselves to focus on the stage. When Junwoo appeared, their eyes filled with anticipation for what he would show them next. 

  

Even those who had prepared to catch some sleep at the back had found their way to the vacant front seats without anyone noticing. 

  

The following scenes were beyond words. Junwoo portrayed the character's life, filled with pain and hope, despair and ecstasy, in each scene. It was a performance that went beyond perfection, transcending acting and directing. 

  

Completely immersed in the performance, the audience occasionally laughed, sobbed, and held their breath. 

  

As the curtain rose, applause and cheers erupted. 

  

A single spotlight illuminated Junwoo, standing at the center of the stage. 

  

"Wow. Who's that? Never seen them before." 

  

"Yeah, right? Hey, he's good-looking too. Where did that kid come from?" 

  

"Is it okay for someone like that to be here? By the way, what did he say his name was?" 

  

"I don't know either. Is it like a secret trainee or something?" 

  

It was only after the play ended that questions about Junwoo's presence began to surface from various directions. 

  

And, 

  

"At last, I've found you." 

  

Among the audience, someone wearing a hat thought to themselves. 

  

There had been a person closely observing Junwoo from the moment the stage started. 

 


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