Black Butte School presented “American Winter” last week at Camp Sherman Community Hall. photo by Jerry Baldock
Black Butte School presented “American Winter” last week at Camp Sherman Community Hall. photo by Jerry Baldock

Last Thursday evening at the Camp Sherman Community Hall, Black Butte School (BBS) presented their annual winter performance. The production's theme "American Winter," a variety show of music, comedy and poetry involved all the 29 students from the small school. Act 2, the feature presentation "The Winter of Red Snow, was a historical play about the American experience at Valley Forge during the winter of 1778, featuring the upper grade students performing various roles.

"This is always one of our biggest nights of the year," said Delany Sharp, head teacher for BBS. "We recognize that this is a very special tradition that has been going on in Camp Sherman for many decades. The show is my wife Jennie Sharp's undertaking that she has been working on since last summer. This is a chance for the whole community to see all the students at their creative best."

The first act offered up unique holiday tunes, poems and young students giving their best shot at stand-up comedy to a standing-room-only audience of teachers, parents, family, community members and alumni. It was pure magic and delighted the audience!

Holly Foster, the grandmother of one of the students, volunteered her musical talents during the first act.

After a brief intermission the audience was ready for the feature presentation, "The Winter of the Red Snow." The play was written by Jennie Sharp, director of the play, and adapted from the children's book of the same name by Kristianna Gregory.

The play, based on real American history, was a fictional account of 11-year-old Abigail Stewart and her perspective on the harsh encampment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania during the winter of 1777-78.

Stewart, played by 11-year-old student Audrie Neiman, learns firsthand about the horrors of war. Young Stewart wanted to do something to help with the war effort, and she got her chance when Martha Washington had her and her family help with the sick soldiers. Stewart really sees how hard and horrible war is, but how important is the cause for which they're fighting.

Jennie Sharp said, "Late in the summer I was thinking about what I would like to do differently this year for our annual winter show. And one goal I came up with was to integrate more with what the students were learning in their classes into performing arts. So I asked Mr. Sharp if there were any historical events that took place during the winter in their early American history class. Immediately he mentioned Valley Forge. We decided that this was the perfect event to base our show on. I thought it would be a smart way to link the arts into the school curriculum."

Most of the literature about this historical time period focused on what happened to George Washington and his army. Yet there were many other people who shaped American history and "Winter of the Red Snow" highlights the women, the children and the Native Americans who helped the American army survive a most brutal winter.

"This play is historical fiction and paints a plausible yet dramatized version of history," Jennie said. "Many of the characters were historical figures and others represented colonists who did exist, we just never knew their names or stories."

Jennie dedicated the play to the indigenous people of New York, who were one of the few Native American tribes who actively helped the Americans during the fight for independence.

After the final scene and for the close of the show, two narrators played by students Lily Henderson and Caiden Cunningham went on stage and asked the audience to take a moment of silence to honor all those who gave their lives in service to our country.

The audience cheered, clapped and stood up in honor of a powerful dramatic performance by 21 students ages 9 to 13 as the cast appeared on stage to take their final bow.