Cottage Theatre campers visit the “Roaring Twenties”

COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. - When Jennifer Mandeville-Shulz was asked if she wanted to take over some of the summer camps offered at Cottage Theatre, her resounding “Yes!” probably rattled windows in the nearby neighborhoods. Theater and teaching kids, after all, are two of her greatest passions.

This is a woman who teaches full time at the Academy for Character Education charter school, is pursuing her Master’s in Education, volunteers at the Cottage Theatre and occasionally appears in their plays. Could they have possibly found a better fit?

CT Play summer camps have gone on for many years, but COVID and a major theater remodel stopped the camps for a while. Then retirements of some of the program’s heavy hitters left a void. Keith Kessler, Catricia Mayhue, and Janet Rust, all stepped away from the program for personal reasons, and the lead position came up for grabs.

Mandeville-Schulz’s credentials for the position were impressive. During previous Bohemia Mining Days, she wrote plays for the Bohemia City Players, a fledgling group of performers for the annual event. In 2018, Mandeville-Schulz wrote “Gold, Gun and Grits,” which was performed at Coiner Park right next to the display steam engine. 

“We were right in the middle of all the noise and excitement,” Mandeville-Schulz remembers. “It was challenging!”

Then in 2019, she wrote “Opal Whiteley: Hidden Gem,” a play focused on Whiteley’s innocence and genius, and the Bohemia City Players were off and rolling again. This time they were helped by a grant from the Lane County Cultural Coalition. 

By 2020, COVID canceled BMD and Mandeville-Schulz started teaching full time at ACE charter school. Mandeville-Shulz had also started a Drama Club at ACE and, even though a lot of the classes took place via the internet, she was amazed how hard the kids were working.

“The kids were sustaining their skills,” she said, “and growing and developing in unpredictable ways.” Mandeville-Schulz was more convinced than ever that kids and theater owned her heart.

The first CT Play camp this summer is for students 11-13. Aptly named The Showstoppers, this group will be focusing on theater technique: dance, vocal, and acting. Mandeville-Shulz will take the lead as camp director, but she will receive strong support from Darcy Rust in choreography and Ursula Damgaard in music direction.

Mandeville-Shulz explained, “Many of these kids are already theater aficionados. They have been in multiple plays, studied theater and pretty much know what they’re doing. They will be working with 1920s costumes, slang and looking at several scenes from the ‘20s”.

On Friday, July 14 and Saturday, July 15 at 7 p.m. during the middle of Bohemia Mining Days, the Showstoppers will present a showcase at the Cottage Theatre to share their work with the community. Expect dancing, singing and some audience participation. Also expect to be amazed at what 13 kids led by three talented volunteers can produce.

Tickets for the performances are $10 for all ages, and the program is family-friendly, so bring your entire crew. For more information on the Showstoppers performances, and other Cottage Theatre events, you can visit them online at: