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Marta Becket


Marta Becket was an American painter, dancer, and pianist. She was born on the East Coast, and as a young woman, Marta danced in Broadway productions and at Radio City Music Hall. She appeared in “Showboat”, “A Wonderful Town,” and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” In 1967, she moved to the West Coast and settled in Death Valley Junction, California, where Becket and her husband opened The Amargosa Opera House and Hotel.

Becket discovered the building for their business after she and her husband got a flat tire in Death Valley. With time to explore the city’s old adobe buildings, Becket stumbled upon and fell in love with a huge building that had once been a theater. Looking through a hole in a door "she saw a small stage with faded calico curtains hanging from a track. Debris was strewn all over the warped floorboards, and several rows of wooden benches faced the stage.” It was obvious the theater had been abandoned for quite some time. Becket recalled, “Peering through the tiny hole, I had the distinct feeling that I was looking at the other half of myself. The building seemed to be saying… Take me… do something with me… I offer you life."

The couple decided to rent and fix up the theater, and her first performance was in 1968. Becket’s performances were sometimes empty, but she was tenacious, and painted a huge mural of audience members on the wall to simulate a crowd. She held shows every Friday, Saturday, and some Monday evenings. Becket also painted her own set designs. In June 2008, The Santa Barbara Independent newspaper described Becket as the only resident of Death Valley Junction. Becket was the subject of an Emmy Award-winning documentary, Amargosa, directed by Todd Robinson in 2000.