NoCCA’s dinner theater promises to lift ‘spirits’ at its fall Gala

(L-R) Actors Manny Alexis and Analia Sotelo listen to acting director Sara Correa’s direction for the North County Coalition for the Arts’ (NoCCA) production of Noel Cowards’ British comedy, “Blithe Spirits.” Lloyd Miller photo.

BRAWLEY — Analia Sotelo, Manny Alexis, and Ximena Torres read their lines while blocking stage positions across the Stockmen’s Club platform in Brawley, Thursday. With one-arm dramatic movements, the actors kept their noses in scripts, and ears tuned to acting-director Sara Correa’s suggestions of subtle changes to their characters’ physical actions.

So goes the preparation for North County Coalition of the Arts’ (NoCCA) twenty-first season opening fundraiser gala scheduled for Friday, September 22, and Saturday, September 23. The group chose Noel Cowards’ sophisticated British comedy, Blithe Spirits, as the performance.

NoCCA uses the fall gala to present a more adult-themed comedy to raise funds, entertain through a dinner theater, and shine the light on new talent. In fact, all leading roles this year are first-timers in carrying the production.

Manny Alexis had a supporting role in NoCCA’s highly successful 2017 spring musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” as he skillfully played Cogsworth, the Beast’s clock-butler. Now Manny will portray Charles, an inspiring English writer married to his second wife, Ruth, after the demise of his first spouse, Elvira.

Analia Sotelo portrays the second wife, Ruth. Director Correa said she was inspired by Sotelo’s raw talent.

“Last season, Anna was silly girl #3 in ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ She came new to the theater then, and now she is our lead female. She may be new, but she is brilliant,” Correa said.

The antagonist in the comedy is played by Ximena Torres as Elvira, the dead first wife’s spirit. In “Beauty and the Beast,” she played, Babette, the flirty French feather duster-maid in the enchanted castle.

“It is a perfect cast, for a perfectly clever story,” said Correa, “with a fast-pace wit. There is great chemistry between the main characters. Everyone appreciates seeing new faces in lead roles as well as favorites such as Meghan Strahm, who plays Mrs. Bradman.”

As Correa explained the dynamics of the comedy, Charles can see his ex-wife’s spirit, Elvira, but his second wife, Ruth, cannot. And Elvira sees everyone and is not pleased with her husband’s second choice.

The obvious chemistry between the three lead performers causes laughter amongst themselves and script suggestions during rehearsals, even as they listen to Correa’s direction. Occasionally, Correa adopted their inspired improvisations.

Steven Cosio, technical director, also said he was excited by what he termed, “new blood.”

Cosio began working with NoCCA in 1997. Although a musician by trade, the group hired him in the early ‘90s to work the lights, and he quickly progressed to running the sound system. “I have had many jobs in the arts, but working for NoCCA, being a theater tech, it is my favorite job, ever,” Cosio said.

Cosio said the fall production is both inspiring and technically challenging. He loves the”‘new blood” fall shows present, but he also must rise to the challenge to produce quality sound and light effects at the Stockmen’s Club. He is excited by NoCCA’s new sound board.

It is a “brand new board with bells and whistles,” Cosio said, as the glint in his eyes promised the dinner show would be high quality, technically.

Despite the fun and camaraderie all enjoyed, a top-notch production demands hard work. Sara Correaq officially wears the hat of NoCCA assistant executive to the board. For the production, she is the line producer, Thursday, she wore the assistant director hat as the real director, Rosemary Wood was out of town.

Thursday night was the fourth week of blocking rehearsals, which entailed choreographing down every nuance of physical acting so the final three weeks of rehearsal will allow the actors to focus on memorizing their lines.

Blocking entailed reading five pages and blocking each rehearsal with three rehearsals per week. Most laymen see the glamour of the final show’s production without realizing the work and dedication necessary for two hours of glory.

The Stockmen’s Club dinner theatre production is set for Friday, September 22.

“Tables are $1,000 and there are only two left; open seating tables only have 16 seats left. Dinner will be served Friday and we are finalizing menus,” said Correa. “Saturday night is drinks, light hors d’oeuvres, and theatre seating, and those seats are going fast.”


Andreya Martinez as Edith
Analia Sotelo as Ruth
Manny Alexis as Charles
Charlene Tamayo as Madame Arcati
Ximena Torres as Elvira


John-Paul Wells as Dr. Bradman
Megan Strahm as Mrs. Bradman

For ticket information, call Rosemarie Wood at (760) 791-3802.