Celebrating the Artful Life of Marta Becket
She was a driving force brimming with creativity, a performer, a artistic visionary, and a cultural icon of the desert. Marta Becket, who became a world-renowned artist and performer literally in the middle of nowhere, in the nearly forgotten mining town of Death Valley Junction, was lost to us this year, but on the weekend of October 20-21, the town that was hers, will be filled with her fans from around the world, celebrating her life and her magnificent gift to all of us - the Amargosa Opera House.
After her arrival in Death Valley Junction from New York at age 44 while on tour, Becket, a performer, dancer, singer, choreographer, and painter, found her destiny. She began performing in what had been the auditorium for a mining company near Death Valley. Her story is one that makes fiction pale when compared to how she brought her dreams to life in the desert.
Not content to perform in the drab surroundings of an abandoned mining company auditorium, she painted the improbable figurative murals surrounding her 16th century-themed opera house on the stucco walls and ceiling of the auditorium and social hall of the former Pacific Coast Borax Company, abandoned since the 1940s.
Her vibrantly painted audience – from priests and royalty to prostitutes and gypsies - insured she would “always have an audience” to perform for despite being isolated in the Mojave Desert, whether patrons came or not. But come they did, and filled the remarkable 120-seat opera house where she performed ballet and musical theatre, on a stage lit by coffee-can lights, for 49 years. The first performance of Marta's I was lucky enough to catch was filled with a sold-out crowd where I counted at least seven languages being spoken. People literally came from around the world to see Marta weave her magic, a magic that I'd like to think of as part of the desert itself.
She also created her own costumes, props, backdrops, lyrics and melodies; a permanent museum is being established at Death Valley Junction to showcase Marta’s original theatrical performances from 1968 to 2017. The iconic murals, painted over six years, were Marta’s crowning achievement amongst a ceaseless flow of visual and performing artworks beginning in New York where she was born in 1924; coincidentally, it was the same year the Pacific Coast Borax Company built their Spanish Colonial-style colonnaded complex in Death Valley Junction, a fact Marta relished.
The Board of Directors of the Amargosa Opera House are presenting this Celebration of Life for Becket after their hard fought battle to preserve her legacy. Marta wanted the opera house she created to continues to be devoted to the preservation of the classical arts long after her death. This celebration is an appreciated step in that direction.
On Friday October 20, the Opening Night Performance of the season will be celebrated with Marta’s protegée, Hilda Vazquez. Vazquez was fortunate to be coached by Becket till her last day and was entrusted with her creations of dance and pantomime. Learning and performing Marta’s original choreography was a beautiful and much cherished gift for Vazquez, one that allows Marta’s legacy to live on.
Vazquez, originally from the Dominican Republic, was classically trained under the guidance of the National Ballet School of Cuba founded by Alicia Alonso. In addition, there is a remarkable coincidence in that Marta Becket and Alonso began in their days in New York taking ballet classes from some of the same masters. Becket was a great admirer of Alonso for what she had created and accomplished in Cuba. Vazquez’ soloist performance experiences in her native country included most classical ballets like Giselle, Coppelia, La Sylphide, among many others.
As a part of this Opening Performance, a heartfelt video tribute will be offered to the audience in homage to Becket. Vazquez’s performances will continue every Friday and Saturday evening through Memorial Day weekend in May, 2018.
On Saturday October 21, Emmy Award-Winning Director Todd Robinson has generously offered to screen his full-length documentary feature “Amargosa." It was on the Academy Award finalist list for the 72nd Annual Academy Awards and it is a remarkable movie about Marta’s life and accomplishments.
The screening will be followed by a question and answer session with a panel of the film’s producers: Sidney Sherman, Kenneth A. Carlson, and the executive producers, Traci and Todd Robinson. This is a unique event for a global community of friends representing the first of many fundraising events aimed to support Marta’s vision and legacy of the Amargosa Opera House, Inc., the non-profit entity she founded in 1973. Marta Becket’s autobiography, “To Dance on Sands,” and the DVD “Amargosa,” will be available to patrons through the gift store at Death Valley Junction.
As further enhancement of the visitor experience in Death Valley Junction and the Amargosa Opera House, the Amargosa Café will offer a special Pre-Performance Dinner both evenings.
The Amargosa Café reopened in 2015 after a beautiful and extensive remodeling overseen by Marta herself, and serves up food worthy of the drive to Death Valley Junction all by itself.
All of these Celebration of Life of Marta Becket events require advance reservations as space is very limited. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for event reservations and email@example.com for dinner reservations.
Marta Becket “Celebration of Life” events are guided by the leadership of the board of directors President, Fred Conboy, and Vice President, Ramon Caballero, artistic adviser, Christine Fossemalle, and the new general manager, Bobbi Fabian.