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Dramatic actor - Tu Ben

Friday, 15/03/2019 00:24


One of the most famous writer and journalist before the August Revolution 1945. Born in 1903 and died in 1977, he was one of the founders of the Viet Nam Writers’ Association. As a authentic realistic writer, he is author of more 200 well-known novels and short stories. Nguyên Công Hoan was awarded the Ho Chi Minh Prize for Literature and Arts.



. Short story

People, who like to watch the opera, no one will not know the name of Tu Ben – a Dramatic actor. He is only wellknown for his talent, sometimes going to the stage, he doesn't need to say a funny sentence, but just looking at his little gesture, the audience must be able to laugh and laugh, clap their hands with cracks.

He had performed from Sai Gon to Ha Noi for three years. Because he has his own talent and he likes to be free, so he will not specialize in a theater for a long time. But any theater is good at using him, it shall be crowded too. So, every night, Ha Noi city’s people read the program or watch the newspaper, seeing that Tu Ben actor shall role-play jokingly, they shall go watching with enthusiasm. Some people arrive lately and can’t buy ticket, they must come back with their money. But nobody complain that the theater is too crowded.

So, whenever there is a performance evening with his help, the theaters shall show up it as a special one. But over a month, he had not acted anywhere. Because his father had been sick for over a month. For over a month, in the dark garret of the house at the beginning of Sam Cong alley, the groan of the old man also mixed with the sadness of the medicinal herbs kettle all the time, which made Tu Ben to be sullen, not care about his business. His father's illness turned more and more severe, whichever medicines he tried to treat without hesitance. But the savings of a dramatic actor gradually went down, that he had to borrow some money from the theater owners.

One day, the theater owner came to his house to visit. After some perfunctory questions, he seriously mentioned the debt:

- How? That amount of money, do you have now to pay me?

- Dear Sir, please give me a few days more, when I have sparetime, I will go to work and pay you later.

The theater owner pouted, and said:

- Well, too many times! If you don’t pay, I will send this case to the court.

Mr. Tu Ben sickly laughed for form’s sake, but the boss sweetly coaxed:

- You stopped working at the theaters for a long time, the audience always reminded you. So, do you think about going to do business?

- Yes, I planned to ...

- I’ve just asked a great writer to write a comedy in a classical drama style. So, you should help me with the main role. Because nobody but you is worthy.

- I have to learn to act the new play, don’t I, Sir?

- Yes, you must learn and practice for about a half month! A half month! Well!

Tu Ben repeated those three words, but in his mind still thinking about many things: In a half month, for fifteen days, he has to spend several hours a day away from his father to practice.

His father was sick. While he was away, who looked after him instead? Thinking so, he replied immediately: reluctance. Now, the reason why he had to shake the hand is because he wants to show the polite manner to the people who his son to be in debt.

- You're too weak, right. Why don’t Mr. Tu Ben accept my invitation?

The old man jerked up his chin, meaning to ask.

- I am about to practice new play, intend asking him to act the main role.

The old man grinned again and nodded, but Tu Ben immediately told his father.

- You're very tired, I must stay home.

The old man frowned. Only Tu Ben understands that his father does not want his son to displease the creditor because of him. The boss coaxed, and said:

- Please just help me. If you accept my invitation, such debt you can retain whenever you want, and the commission of your role in the performance of the comedy “Mr. double-think district official”, you can get it to buy medicines for your farther.

The power to make the dramatic actor Tu Ben think of leaving his father alone is that sentence. And because of that sentence also, his father beam his ribcage. The old man tried to breathe heavily to feel comfortable in his heart.

- How do you think?

- But such a half of month. Who shall look after my father?

- Oh, well, this is okay with you. You just stay home and study. By the time of the last test, please go to the theater. Because I know you're smarter and more talented than others. Don’t waste this chance, you still have the opportunity to display your talent, and let the audiences to remember you such a long time is also not convenient!

Hearing the last sentence as if eating a piece of holy bread, Tu Ben seemed thinking. He looked at his father. The old man saw that his son was still hesitant, he disclosed his displeasure. The old man frowned, tried to raise his harsh voice, scold:
- Do accept it!

After saying that, he coughed again and again.

Mr. Tu Ben was moved, looking at the Theater owner and answering.

- Yes!
The boss, because of waiting for this “yes” for a long time, so he afraid of it was not sure. On the day of the performance, what if Tu Ben's father has matter, Tu Ben was always absent from the theater, and everything’s gone bust . He asked Tu Ben for signing an agreement paper.

The audiences who like watching the drama, saw the advertising car running around the city to broadcast the program, and the banners was hanging at the T-roads, were eager to go watching for a special performance which Tu Ben shall play the main role.

At night, the lights brightened at the theater’s entrance as daylight, clearly showing the scene of people bumpy like a flower bed of thousands of flowers, butterflies and bees flied around. On the platform, below the stairs, in the middle of the road, looking at the thousands of young men and women huddled together, looking for places to stand watching each other while waiting for being impatience. Music mixed in theaters melodiously, full of love and affection, like attracting, and dragging audiences, making people forget, but unconsciously, grabbing wallet to buy tickets.
Then the wave of people gradually overflow inside. On the rows of seats, some crowds repeated the joke of Tu Ben’s actor, while some others imitated the posture of Tu Ben. Everyone was impatient with fever, hoping for the opening time of the stage, to be able to laugh, clap their hands, and learn more about the new way of joking to smirk the lover tomorrow.

Such a honourable to Mr. Tu Ben’s actor! But what a misfortune! Audiences don’t know that right now, at home, his father is in a wheeze, just waiting every minute to take one or two breaths then passes away. And in the acting room, he is also gnawing. Indeed, anyone who looks into the acting room can see Tu Ben's suffering. He sat sullenly in front of the mirror, his belly tangled, his face contorted, but his hand still had to touch the pink cosmetic box to apply on his face, wipe the ink plate to smear his mouth. Then he had to wear his baggy embroidered shirt in the wrong way, wear green shoes and a back to front mandarin’s bonnet. He plays this role, looks rich and happy. Soon, he had to make his master pleased, his fellow-workers look at him with great effort to endeavour, the audiences were grinning, clappings hand nonstop! But Tu Ben’s father is going to die! A little while ago, when he was at home, his father was already in danger. Well! But ignore it. He has to forget to play, and make jokes on the stage, let us laugh, scream and laugh, laughing so hard that rolling over on the ground?


A bell just has been finished, the screen is pulled up. A crack applause like firecrackers to welcome the king of comedian. He steped out with deliberate steps, bowed, and stood there tonguetied like petrified for a while. The screams, the chorus, the applause become fiercer! Audiences saw him wearing funny clothes with smeared mouths, who could stop laughing! The more he’s standing still, the longer they can watch, and thought he wanted to make jokes like that, so they laughed even more! Such a cruel situation! The role of Tu Ben on that day was just standing on the stage. Especially, he had to do more gestures than usual.

Sometimes he had to effort for laughing and laughing!

The first scene was ended. How such a long time! He was rested for a while, remembered to go back home for checking his father's situation. Then he had to role-play again. He had to yell, scream and stress each word, modulate each sentence, do gestures, and laugh like the first scene. Audiences just seeing him is enough for laughing. How they can notice and see clearly his anxiety, it appears in the eyes. Suddenly, when he was boastering on stage, when people were clapping their hands, he heard someone said in the room:

- More serious than before. Already lost of speech!

His father lost of speech! It couldn’t be helped. But now it has much fun. Audience down there, thousands of eyes, staring at him and being noiseless. They just waited for him to open his mouths and they can roll out laughing and clapping hands.

The second scene is as long as the first scene, takes long time for over. When he was sitting in the acting room, he received more news again, now his father was fainted, his limbs were cold.
What's more painful than that news! Tu Ben suddenly fell two rows of tear in his eyes, then sobbed:

- My Dear Father!

The boss seeing that, very scared. If he quits the funny play, it shall be very terrible. He tried to advise, and forbid others to tell him the news.

The stage’s layout was almost finished. The boss forced him to apply some more cosmetic to be more colorful, fix his hat and clothes to make it more fun. Seeing Tu Ben both pulled the bandage and sniffled, the boss made him shut up, and wipe his tears. Then he pushed him to the stage. He had to yell, scream, stress each words, laugh, and dance to buy applauses. The pitiful scene of Mr. Tu Ben mixed with his joking, went on and on, every moment turned more and more heart-breaking. But the more he can’t catch the news from his house, the more his heart pained like being applied by salt and rumpled like sour vegetable. The last scene that he thought is slow for comming, the audience thought is too fast.

So, when he was about to bring the curtain down, he bowed, then the whole theater clapped their hands thunderously, very long and long. He thought this time his debt is over, he decided to comback his father's bed to look at his father's face for the last time before he died, then in the first class seat row, people screamed:
- Bis! Bis!

The theater’s owner again lifted the curtain. Tu Ben had to hide his sullen face since it suited his mood - for being funny to play the last part again.

Then when the gramophone emerged, the final applause was like breaking the theater. The curtain slowly dropped. He bowed slowly. But too many people, not waste the time, fought over to run next to him. Some gave flowers, some shook hands, others pinched the nose. Some gave compliments. Making his mind was like scorching.

When he no longer had to sigh to thank for the applause of the audiene, Tu Ben hurriedly ran into the acting room, hastily took off his hood and washed his face.

At that time, while he was confused thinking about his father, not knowing how cold he was now, a fellow-worker came along, hurriedly pressed on his hand his master's banknote, and said:

- Come back home quickly, Tu Ben! Your father dead a short while ago! What a misfortune!


Translated by Thanh Kha group

Source: Vietnam Writers and Works

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