A person can count on traditions in Camp Sherman. In summer, anglers will fly-fish on the Metolius. Newcomers will get lost driving around the Forest Service tracts. Camp Sherman Store will serve up some fine grub. And in winter, residents will flock to Black Butte School’s (BBS) Winter Performance.

“I am so excited to bring the show back to the Community Hall!” director Jennie Sharp told The Nugget. “The Community Hall brings everyone literally closer together, which we have really missed for the last three seasons.”

During earlier times in the Covid-19 pandemic, shows had to be canceled or creatively reimagined; last year, the Winter Performance took the form of an outdoor parade featuring singing, dancing kids.

This year’s show, “Too Hot to Be Cool,” found schoolkids and show-goers returning to the traditional venue, Camp Sherman Community Hall behind the fire station. The play’s hero, King Cocoa, was portrayed by fifth-grader Everett Danger Spurgeon.

“My dad gave me the middle name,” he explained. Spurgeon has enjoyed being in BBS shows before but never with a starring role.

“I remember the first role I had in a winter performance,” he said, recalling kindergarten. “I was a cow.”

Starring in the show is tougher than portraying livestock. “I have to memorize four songs and 27 lines,” he said. “So that’s been challenging.”

Sharp found a script online called “Snow Global Warming,” by a teacher named Mrs. McCalister. After purchasing the rights, Sharp used it as the basis for a whole new play, “Too Hot to Be Cool,” which included more characters and “a little depth” Sharp was looking for.

The play enacted a parable of climate change, with plenty of fun and music. “It’s a very cold world,” Spurgeon said of Marshmallow Land, where the story took place.

As King Cocoa, “I try to find heat from like fireplaces, hot cocoa, and stuff like that,” he said. “It starts melting all the snow, and then people have to help me try to change my ways, to stop using all the heat.”

Why does King Cocoa seek so much warmth? “Well, the queen died. He’s just cold. Since the queen died he’s been very sad. There’s only one person who makes him happy at the beginning; that’s Princess Chocolate.”

In the end, said Spurgeon, “We make Marshmallow Land a snowy place for everybody.”

In addition to bringing the Camp Sherman community together at a picturesque time of year the annual Winter Performance enables students to learn new skills with hands-on experience.

“I believe performing and theater contribute greatly to students’ education!” Sharp enthused. “First, the performance gives them something authentic to work together toward. It helps them each individually to build confidence and work through nervous or uncomfortable feelings.”

With its unusual small-school format, Black Butte School allows every student in the entire school to collaborate creatively on a single show. “As a school, we all learn better cooperation skills,” explained Sharp. “We have to work hard together to each learn our part of something bigger than just us.”

In addition to rehearsing during school hours, students worked on costumes and set painting with their families. “The kids also sent hand-written invitations to most of the Camp Sherman community,” Sharp added.

Older kids helped younger kids learn their parts, and prompted them onstage when needed. “We have kindergartners in it,” said Spurgeon of the play. “They’re doing a good job. Some of them don’t know how to read yet but they’re still nailing their lines. I was surprised about how good they’re doing.”

It seemed different from playing a cow when he was little: “I mostly just said Moo through the whole thing.”

Reading a play and memorizing lines brings kids into a different relationship with language, improving literacy skills. Sharp’s script helped students learn about science (heat, climate change) and social-emotional learning, also known as SEL, as it approached subjects of addiction, community, and cooperation.

“Theater education teaches focus and concentration skills,” continued Sharp, who is also the founder of Starshine Theater, where she leads performance camps throughout the summer.

In a theater production, kids need to be “hyper-aware of what is going on around them so they can perform their part with ease,” she said. “Focus and concentration skills help with all aspects of their academic journey.”

Spurgeon said he likes performing in the winter show every year. “Jennie usually does a really good job about choosing good roles for everybody. She makes really good performances.”

In addition to Camp Sherman residents, Black Butte School serves kids grades K–8 from Sisters and surrounding areas, with buses picking up at Sisters Library. Spaces are currently available. Learn more online at blackbutte.k12.or.us.