- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Go to the Amargosa Opera House
A building which had been abandoned for quite a long time, till it was turned into an opera house with a unique atmosphere.
Once in a lifetime experience awaits you in a tiny town known as Death Valley Junction, for this is the home of the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel. For more than 40 years, Marta Becket has lived and shared her art and dreams with those fortunate enough to find this wonderful and magical place. Located a few miles west of the California-Nevada border, near Death Valley National Park, no journey to this part of the world would be complete without a visit to this unique and inspiring destination.
"Outside, in the world, people struck each other, yelled, honked horns," she says. "Inside, in the theater, they conversed by singing and dancing. I knew that was where I belonged."
Before long she was amazing her dance teachers with her talent. She also studied piano and art on a scholarship at the age of nine, developing as an artist and pianist.
As a young woman, she danced at Radio City Music Hall, and on Broadway. She appeared in "Showboat", "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", and "A Wonderful Town". But Marta wanted to dance her own dances, design her own costumes, and create her own show. Which is exactly what she did, and she took her solo show on the road.
Married in 1962, Marta and her husband found themselves in California, in the spring of 1967, after months of touring. They decided to spend a week's vacation camping in Death Valley, behind the visitor's center. One morning they awoke to a flat tire on their trailer. A park ranger directed them to Death Valley Junction to have the tire repaired.
While her husband attended to the tire, Marta began to explore the old adobe buildings. Walking down the long colonnade of what was known as the Amargosa Hotel, she was hypnotically drawn to the end, and around the corner where she discovered the largest building in the row. It was a theater! She could not believe her eyes.
At the back of the building, she found a hole in a door, where she could see inside. There she saw a small stage with faded calico curtains hanging from a track. Debris was strewn all over the warped floor boards, and several rows of wooden benches faced the stage. It was obvious the theater had been abandoned for quite some time. It seemed to be the only unused building in Death Valley Junction. "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 next day Marta and her husband located the town manager and agreed to rent the theater for $45.00 a month, and to assume responsibility for repairs. Originally called Corkhill Hall, she renamed the theater the Amargosa Opera House.
Marta gave her first performance in the theater on February 10th, 1968. On that rainy night, she danced for an audience of twelve adults, children and grandchildren. From that day on the doors of the Amargosa Opera House opened without fail at 7:45 pm and the curtain parted promptly at 8:15 pm every Friday, Saturday, and Monday night for many years.
The audiences consisted of locals and curious tourists, and sometimes no one came at all. Working in the Opera House cleaning up after a rainstorm, Marta had a flash of inspiration. She would paint an entire audience on the walls of the theater. It took four years to complete the murals on the walls. Then Marta started work on the ceiling, which took another two years and was completed in 1974.
In January of 1983, Marta's husband left for other interests, but as fate would have it, at the same time another important person entered her life. Mr. Thomas J."Wilget" Willett stepped in as stage manager and M.C. and has been with her until his death in 2005. A natural comedian, he acted as a performing stage manager, playing parts, co-starring with Marta, and adding humor to the classical ambience of the performances.
"I am grateful to have found the place where I can fulfill my dreams and share them with the passing scene...for as long as I can." Marta officially retired in 2012, after her final show, "The Sitting Down Show." She continues to live in Death Valley Junction.