Nuevo drama teacher brings love of theater to rural community – press enterprise

For students in the rural community of Nuevo, including many children of farm workers, the theater has become their home.

Credit for the Emerging Theater and Art program goes to drama teacher Cassie Shott-Hammond at Nuview Bridge Early College High School, the only high school in the Nuview Union School District. Shott-Hammond works with the four neighborhood schools near Perris to teach the arts through its Troupe 8117 theater.

From rehearsals in the school’s common “café-gym-natorium” to building sets and costume design from scratch, she teaches young Nuevo actors the ins and outs of creating a show. . In December, the troupe opened “Matilda”, one of their first shows since the students returned to campus.

  • Drama teacher Cassie Shott-Hammond chats with students backstage as they prepare to play “Matilda” for elementary school students at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday, December 10 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

  • Students from Nuview Bridge Early College High School, left to right, Mark Ocegueda, Codi Walter and Yesenia Sandoval set the stage for the second performance of “Matilda” at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday December 10, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, La Presse-Entreprise / SCNG)

  • Drama teacher Cassie Shott-Hammond is helping students prepare to play “Matilda” at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday, December 10, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

  • Nuview Bridge Early College High School drama students from left, Diego Izeta and Ivy Mora, greet elementary students after the first performance of “Matilda” at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday, December 10, 2021. ( Photo by Terry Pierson, La Presse-Entreprise / SCNG)

  • Drama teacher Cassie Shott-Hammond helps students backstage prepare to play “Matilda” for elementary school students at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday, December 10, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

  • Actress Kayla Berkey, a student at Nuview Bridge Early College High School, plays Matilda at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday, December 10, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

  • Drama students at Nuview Bridge Early College High School fill their free time with phones and conversations during a performance of “Matilda” at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday, December 10, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Presse-Entreprise / SCNG)

  • Drama teacher Cassie Shott-Hammond chats with students between performances of “Matilda” at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday, December 10, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG )

  • Nuview Bridge Early College High School student Mariana Carreon Reyes prepares backstage for a performance of “Matilda” at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday, December 10, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

  • Drama teacher Cassie Shott-Hammond works on student Diego Izeta’s necklace as he eats cupcake backstage between performances of “Matilda” at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday, December 10 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, La Presse-Entreprise / SCNG)

  • Drama teacher Cassie Shott-Hammond, right, pins her hair back on student Ivy Mora between performances of “Matilda” at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday, December 10, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press- Company / SCNG)

  • A drama student at Nuview Bridge Early College High School uses a flashlight to follow the script behind the scenes during a performance of “Matilda” at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday, December 10, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press -Entreprise / SCNG)

  • Actress Kayla Berkey, a student at Nuview Bridge Early College High School, plays Matilda at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday, December 10, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

  • Drama teacher Cassie Shott-Hammond, left, chats with students backstage as they prepare to play ‘Matilda’ for elementary school students at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday December 10, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press -Entreprise / SCNG)

  • Drama students at Nuview Bridge Early College High School use a flashlight to follow the script as they sing during a performance of “Matilda” for elementary students at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo on Friday, December 10, 2021 (Photo by Terry Pierson, La Presse-Entreprise / SCNG)

  • “Matilda” co-director Maria Cortes, left, laughs with drama teacher Cassie Shott-Hammond as they celebrate Maria’s birthday between performances of “Matilda” at Nuview Bridge Early College High School de Nuevo on Friday, December 10, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, La Presse-Entreprise / SCNG)

“For children living in poverty in big cities, there are still awareness programs and free performances. But there isn’t much here, ”said Shott-Hammond, 40. “For some, this is their first real theater show… it brings these kids to see a world outside of this tiny little town.”

Shott-Hammond was raised in Nuevo and inspired by her mother, Diane Shott, who organized the charter school’s drama program in 2001.

Her mother taught her to sew and she fell in love with theater and costume design. In college, she helped make the costumes for the first student production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” at Nuview Bridge in 2002.

Shott-Hammond remembers building sets and costumes in his family’s backyard, raising funds and applying for grants to put on more shows because the district couldn’t afford a full program .

When the district faced more financial woes, Shott-Hammond and his mother started the volunteer-led community theater group to continue the shows at Nuview Bridge at no cost to the students.

Shott-Hammond was recruited as an arts teacher at Nuview Bridge and took the program full-time when her mother resigned. His student-led theater group developed Project PART, which mentors, performs, and helps produce shows for the two elementary schools and the district college.

The program has grown over the past decade, competing and becoming a regionally and nationally recognized school theater program. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the students at Shott-Hammond have made several productions – several online and some outdoors.

In the spirit of keeping things “cheap,” Shott-Hammond teaches students to build props, sets, and costumes from second-hand items.

Maria Cortes, a recent Nuview Bridge graduate, said her hometown has “a lot of untapped artistic potential” and called theater a “creative outlet” for many young people. Cortes, 19, thanks Shott-Hammond for inspiring her to pursue a career as a performer and perhaps a drama teacher.

“Being Cassie’s student was like learning how the world worked, it was a real world class,” said Cortes, who is now studying musical theater at Cal State Fullerton and returned in the fall to. help co-direct “Matilda”.

Shott-Hammond said his school district, which is nearly 81% Latin American, has been stereotyped by others.

For example, at “prestigious” theater competitions, she said that Nuview students felt like “garbage” and judged for their appearance or for their “poverty” and life in a rural area. An administrator once told him that Nuevo was “the wrong demographic for the theater.”

The theater can sometimes be seen as “elite” and “exclusive,” Shott-Hammond said.

“It was either, they are either ‘too poor’ or ‘too dark’. There is this idea that if you are from a rural area, or if you are not absolutely white, then theater is not for you. And that’s just not true, ”she said. “So we’re from a small town, so what?” “

Shott-Hammond’s dream is to someday open an official community theater in Nuevo which she would call “the barn; focused on the whole rural theme.

The theater needs more diverse voices, she said, adding that the arts are “how we learn to be human.”

“If you keep the door with a price tag, you tell the kids they can’t be in it,” she said. “I think the theater out of the ‘trash’, in the middle of nowhere, is just as valid as anywhere else.”

About Keneth T. Graves

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