Marta Becket (August 9, 1924 – January 30, 2017) born Martha Beckett, was an American actress, dancer, choreographer and painter. She performed for more than four decades at her own theater, the Amargosa Opera House in Death Valley Junction, California. Amargosa (2000), Todd Robinson's documentary about Marta Becket, won a 2003 Emmy Award for cinematographer Curt Apduhan, in addition to the film's numerous festival awards and nominations.
Becket on Broadway
Becket began ballet lessons at age 14, which eventually led to performances as a ballerina. She was in the corps de ballet at Radio City Music Hall and on Broadway she appeared in Show Boat, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Wonderful Town. Later, she took her one-woman show across the country, performing in small theaters and school auditoriums. She married in 1962, and she was on her way with her husband to an engagement in 1967 when, due to a flat tire, she discovered a theater in Death Valley Junction and decided to stay.
From borax to ballet
The theater was part of a company town designed by architect Alexander Hamilton McCulloch and constructed in 1923–24 by the Pacific Coast Borax Company. The U-shaped complex of Mexican Colonial-style adobe buildings included company offices, a store, a dorm, a 23-room hotel, dining room, lobby and employees' headquarters. At the northeast end of the complex was a recreation hall used as a community center for dances, church services, movies, funerals and town meetings.
Becket rented the recreation hall, then known as Corkhill Hall, began repairs and changed the name to the Amargosa Opera House. In 1970, journalists from National Geographic discovered Becket doing a performance at the Amargosa Opera House without an audience. Their profile and another in Life led to an international interest in Becket and her theater. She began performing to visitors from around the world, including such notables as Ray Bradbury and Red Skelton.
In later years, Becket dropped the dancing to perform weekly The Sitting Down Show. Becket ceased performing in her Amargosa Opera House at the end of the 2008-09 season but began performing again in 2010. Her final show was February 12, 2012.
Becket occupied the theater since 1968, and personally created the murals and sets. The performances were a source of income for both the Opera House (now owned by Marta's non-profit organization) and the entire town.
- Her autobiography, To Dance on Sands: The Life and Art of Death Valley's Marta Becket, edited by Ginger Mikkelsen Meurer, was published in 2007.
- For the book Star Performance: The Story of the World's Great Ballerinas, by Walter Terry (Doubleday, 1956), Becket did 42 full-page illustrations, plus ten smaller illustrations for the glossary.
- Obituary of Marta Becket, New York Times, February 3, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/03/arts/dance/marta-becket-dead.html
- "Dancer, Artist Enlivens Death Valley Junction". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- "Documentary Chronicles Marta Becket's 40-Year Solo Career". Santa Barbara Independent. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- 24th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards Archived 2010-11-23 at the Wayback Machine, emmyonline.org; accessed January 31, 2017.
- Sandomir, Richard (3 February 2017). "Marta Becket, Dancer in the Desert, Dies at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
- "S.Y. Valley to help preserve theater". Santa Maria Times. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- Lingenfelter, Richard E (1986). Death Valley & the Amargosa: a land of illusion. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 394–395. ISBN 0520056639.
- About Marta.
- Mulvihill, John. "Lost Highway Hotel" Archived 2008-02-16 at the Wayback Machine
- Peterson, Kristen (8 September 2010). "Amargosa Opera House visionary Marta Becket prepares to bow out". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
- Dean, Charlene. "Soirée planned for Becket’s final stage performance" Archived 2012-07-20 at Archive.today
- Henry Brean (January 31, 2017). "Marta Becket, who made Amargosa Opera House famous, dies at 92". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved January 31, 2017.