For Marta Becket, the creative life is an obstacle course of self-doubt,
criticism and abandonment-a high price to pay in the pursuit of self-expression.
But for the seventy-six-year-old dancer and painter who is isolated in the
badlands of Death Valley, the process of creating and performing is her refuge.
Thousands of miles from the Great White Way that bore her a successful
career as a Broadway dancer, Marta Becket has spent the majority of her
life in the most unlikely of places. AMARGOSA is the story of this
reclusive woman, who has struggled her entire life to exorcise her demons
while embracing the rapture of the creative moment by immersing herself in
In the 1960's when Marta should have been making her final concert
tour and concluding a dancing career that had already spanned more than
three decades, she and her husband Tom broke down near the ghost town of
Death Valley Junction, California. Once a company town for the Pacific
Coast Borax Company, the site was almost completely devoid of life and
activity, its striking adobe hotel and outbuildings stood, forgotten and
rotting in the oppressive desert sun. Among the structures was a crumbling
theatre that Marta Becket decided would be the permanent home for her creative
With the nearest town more than twenty-five miles away, theatre
patrons were scarce, but Marta was committed to performing whether an
audience came or not. In the spirit of "If you build it, they will
come," she labored tirelessly for six years to paint a life-sized mural
of a Renaissance audience on the walls and ceilings of her theatre so that
at a minimum, she would have painted faces to play to in the absence of
live ones. The result is an "opera house" which is part opus and part
oddity and seems haunted by ghosts of pigment and brush.
In time the audiences did come, and today every performance of
Marta's very personal dance/mime pieces is sold out. Eccentric as Marta
might seem to an audience member, the experience of sitting in the theatre
and watching the aging artist perform in toe shoes is akin to being inside
of her world view.
When a reunion of former dancers is planned at Amargosa, Marta is forced
to face her growing physical limitations, while at the same time musing
about her inescapable mortality and contending with the uncertain future of
her opera house and town.
Marta Becket's life is a testament to dreams and creative endeavors
everywhere. While her sacrifices and compulsions offer a rare
psychological view into the motivations of a performing artist, at the
same time, they argue for the purging of commerce from art in exchange
for an uncompromising, if not bohemian, pursuit of the creative spirit.