SDSU’s Murder Mystery Production Entertains and Raises Scholarship Funds

Character Amanda Lay and audience member Noel Bravo secretly have an affair during the Murder Mystery production at San Diego State University’s Taste of the Valley scholarship fundraiser.

HEBER – Imperial Valley residents tested their detective skills during San Diego State University’s annual Taste of the Valley event where “The Taste of Mystery” murder mystery play was presented Saturday evening at the Imperial Center in Heber.

Based out of San Diego, The Murder Mystery Company production group, along with several guest participants, plotted a murder leaving guests with the difficult task of solving the case and unmasking the culprit.

The Desert Review’s own graphic designer, Noel Bravo, was chosen from the audience to participate in the production.

In the play, Bravo played the secret lover of Amanda Lay who was married to Lou Zar, a mob boss and owner of Lou Zar’s “legitimate” speakeasy. After discovering Lay and Bravo’s tryst, Zar confronted Bravo and shortly after, was stabbed to death leaving Bravo as the number one suspect.

“We wanted to bring something new and innovative to the Valley, and tonight we definitely achieved our goal,” said Valorie Ashley, SDSU Director of Development and Community Relations.

Ashley said she chose the Speakeasy plot because she loves the 1920s gangster era, the outfits and the music.

Dressed in fringed Flapper dresses, feather headbands and retro shoes, women reflected glamour while men wore suits with bow ties and hats finishing the gangster look.

Taste of the Valley is the only fundraiser San Diego State University (SDSU) holds annually to raise funding for scholarships that benefit low income students. This year’s proceeds will be used to support the recruitment of new high school, transfer, and graduate students to SDSU’s Imperial Valley campus, as well as the retention of current undergraduate and graduate students at the IV campus, and the transition of graduating students from the IV campus.

“We are hoping to make our annual goal of $30,000 between the tickets sold and donations during the event,” said Ashley.

Guests enjoyed a sit-down dinner, with live music provided by Gloria Brister and the piano man Kevin Kelley, while sipping on drinks and attempting to gather clues throughout the evening to solve the mystery.

“This is the first time I’ve attended a murder mystery theme party,” said Abraham Silva, one of the guests. “It looks like it’s going to be a pretty interesting and fun evening.”

VIP members attended a “speakeasy” prior to the event where a password was required to enter, just as it was in the 1920s and 1930s during the alcohol probation years. Once in, guests consumed alcoholic beverages and hors d’oeuvres while watching old movies on a projector.

The “speakeasy” was an establishment that illegally sold alcoholic beverages in the 1920s and 1930s during the alcohol prohibition years. Speakeasies were numerous and popular during the prohibition years, and many of them were operated by people who were part of organized crime gangs. Even though police and agents of the Bureau of Prohibition would often raid them and arrest their owners and patrons, the clandestine bars were so profitable that they continued to flourish. The speakeasy soon became one of the biggest parts of the American culture.

“My wife Anny and I are here supporting this annual fundraiser,” said Roberto Rubio, a representative for Imperial Printers. “It is a pleasure to give back to the community and help students achieve their education goals.”

SDSU Interim Dean Gregorio Ponce said this was his first time assisting with this kind of event and he was very happy with the outcome.

“People are having a lot of fun” said Ponce. “We are grateful for all those who are here and are helping us raise money for our students, we value their help.”