Arianne Bauer hung on every word as she sat at the end of the front row of seats during the Longhorn Theatre Company’s 2021 edition of its annual Senior-Directed One-Act Plays on Thursday night, May 6.

The Payson High School senior couldn’t relax as she internally acted out every line during the premiere of the one-act play she directed “The Fourth Wall,” in the PHS Studio Theatre.

She mouthed the lines and gestured to actors. Bauer also took part, playing the role of an audience member berated by a cast member after her cellphone rang multiple times.

The crowd of 57 spectators thought they were witnessing an actual spur-of-the-moment outburst by an actor directed at a disruptive member of the audience.

It was all an act.

But what wasn’t an act was Baer scrambling to replace an actor who dropped out of the production four days earlier. Fortunately, Maddelyn Greene stepped in to save the day for the production about a rehearsal for a murder mystery play.

Joining Greene in the cast for “The Fourth Wall” were Evian Hurtado, Alexandria Gordon, Nehenmiah Rodriguez, Marissa Ormand, Ayden Meyn, Winifred Paine and Aidene-Lee Smith.

“The Fourth Wall,” written by Rebekah M. Ball, was the second of two short plays presented.

Senior Cameron Middaugh directed “Midnight At World’s End Café,” written by Gabriella Miyares. It featured Ashley Ploof playing a brand-new fate manager to Brandie Morris’ Emily, a young woman at a crossroads. Nathaniel Kammerman, Caitlyn Adams, Ashlynd Whetstone and Matthew McCombs also performed in the play.

The performances continued on Friday, May 7 and Saturday, May 8.

“Everyone who has participated has put in so much effort just to make this show happen,” said Baer in a statement written for the program. “I would also like to thank Mads for joining this cast last minute. We have had our difficulties, but I gotta say, I am proud of the end results.”

She should be if the rousing applause by the audience for both productions is any sign of its quality.

Middaugh said she chose “Midnight At World’s End Café” because it put the spotlight on how people need other people.

“The characters grow because they receive help from people who are looking out for them,” Middaugh wrote for the program.

Senior Caitlyn Adams served as technical director for both plays. She appreciated getting the chance to work with her talented classmates.

“I am so thankful for the opportunity to not only direct, but technical direct a play,” Adams wrote. “Being able to work with a fantastic cast and crew has made this absolutely amazing, and I’m so proud of what we have accomplished with these two productions. I would like to give a special thank you to Arianne Baer and Cameron Middaugh for working side by side with me and creating a whole new world with these fantastic plays.”

PHS Theatre Director Kathy Siler loves closing each school year with the senior-directed one-act plays.

“It’s time for my three- and four-year drama students to shine,” Siler said. “In August, they are encouraged to apply, to choose, design, direct, and tech direct their own plays. The approved projects get scheduled into November (State Thespian One-Act Play Tournament), January (Regional Thespian Festivals) and May (Senior One-Act for Payson). I get to release the reins to the seniors and become the guide. Sometimes we choose plays that complement each other or match a theme. Sometimes we do not — they are random.

“This year they are random, but it’s actually been a creepy year. We started with a new Radio Podcast drama ‘Dracula, A Comedy of Terrors.’ We continued with the State One-Act ‘The Magic Hour’ by Jonathan Dorf directed by senior Nathaniel Kammerman. It earned a Superior Rating at state. We had to cancel ‘The Adams Family High School Version’ because of the low number of students who auditioned. We chose to do ‘Clue On Stage High School Edition.’

“Now, an otherworldly one-act ‘Midnight At World’s End’ and another murder mystery ‘The Fourth Wall’ close our season. How fun is that?”

They’ll finish the year with an Open Mic Lunch for students and staff and a Puppet Show to be the end-of-year recital for beginning and intermediate students.

“I’m the luckiest girl in the world,” Siler said. “I get to do theatre every day and share my passion and talent with those who want to learn. That’s what happiness is.”

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