Starshine founder Jennie Sharp parades toward a forest stage with one of her campers. PHOTO BY JERRY BALDOCK
Starshine founder Jennie Sharp parades toward a forest stage with one of her campers. PHOTO BY JERRY BALDOCK
It started in 2019. Jennie Sharp, local educator and mom, thought that the kids of Sisters Country should have more access to hands-on theater experience. Local schools offered some programming—including the beloved winter performance by Black Butte School students in Camp Sherman, directed by Sharp herself.

Beyond school, though, there didn’t seem to be many options other than driving to Bend. Sharp founded Starshine as a way for kids to create devised theater, using play and workshop techniques to create a whole show in less than a week.

“I did some theater camps in Sisters, and it was very involved,” she elaborated. Jennie wrote a script for each camp, while the kids were inventing their characters and the plot. This took a great deal of work.

“And it was indoors,” she added.

Sharp’s background involves the outdoors, since long before COVID hit. She grew up doing music, dance, and theater performance, but moved toward nature education in college.

“I always loved the outdoors,” she said, sitting alongside Suttle Lake by her pop-top van. She did a forestry program at the University of California at Berkeley, finished her teaching degree, and then went to the Yosemite Institute.

Now called Nature Bridge and involving multiple locations, this environmental education organization was then located in Yosemite National Park. The institute gave Sharp valuable experience as a teacher and naturalist.

“I had groups of school kids come for the week,” she explained. “I would be their trail leader, about the same size as my camps now—between 10 and 15 kids. I did that for three-and-a-half years, met my husband there, and then went back to school.”

She studied education leadership and earned a master’s degree focused on sustainability education from Portland State University. But until the pandemic hit, Sharp hadn’t combined her three areas of study and experience: performance, education, and the great outdoors.

In 2020, Starshine camps were put on hold for a COVID hiatus. That summer, Suttle Lodge reached out to Sharp, asking her to lead short programs for children of guests at the Lodge. Now she also holds Starshine’s week-long day camps at Suttle Lodge in summer. Immersion in nature has become part of the program.

“Suttle Lodge has been really supportive,” said Sharp. “There are a lot of cool little nooks around the property. We can start in one area, then go 200 yards away and be in a completely different environment.”

Creekside, lake beach, the Lodge’s great lawn, the forest — each area feels different.

“We build fairy and gnome homes with beautiful things we find along the lake,” she said. “The kids build things on their own, like elaborate cities with levee systems that get destroyed by waves.”

Another new step for Starshine is stargazing. Sharp produces stargazing programs for guests at Suttle Lodge, Black Butte Ranch, and Lake Creek Lodge in Camp Sherman. That knowledge comes “straight out of the naturalist stuff” in her background.

Some programs are available only to resort guests. Others, though, can be enjoyed by Sisters-area residents. Sharp has been known to show up as Nightingale the Fairy to make magical things happen at birthday parties, too.

“If you want to do a birthday party or any kids programs at Suttle Lodge, or stargazing at Suttle Lodge? Those are all available to the general public,” she said. Learn more about Starshine’s programs at www.starshine-theater.com.