When Marta Becket said she needed some space, she meant S P A C E and thus, the Amargosa Opera House

Imagine culture in the middle of nowhere. Sort of somewhere close to the brothel towns just outside Las Vegas and the first signs of life around the corner from Death Valley...

The story of a Borax mining community goes awash against the colorful artistry of ballerina Marta Becket who revived a theater in need of both a headliner and audience.

Front entrance of Amargosa Opera House. Paint peeling, blue sky.
Home of performer Marta Becket for 50 years

Tours enter several times a day. At $5 per person, an excellent value.

Docents tell the tale of Ms Becket’s discovery of the theater and how she turned art and dancing in the dust into her life’s second act.

A brief glimpse inside the hotel

Long ago, this fixture on the National Register of Historic Places began as apartments for borax miners. By the time Marta Becket and her husband had a flat tire nearby, dilapidation ruled.

While waiting for the car fix, Ms. Becket peeked in the town theater. Tired of touring or realizing not many middle age ballerinas continue to take the stage, she envisioned a renovation.

Ms. Becket bought the town and parted ways with husband No. 1.

I would rather spend the rest of my life in the middle of nowhere than spend another minute with you.

Might have been one of the last things Ms. Becket’s ex heard

Soon many show biz celebs from LA would drop in on their way to and from Vegas.

One docent implied that Red Skelton might have had a bit of a crush on Ms. Becket. But she wed for the second time, Tom Willet, who supported her project and helped it thrive.

  • Couches in front of fireplace, murals on wall.
  • Black and white of the lobby long ago.
  • Piano with mural of two women in a courtyard
  • Old lager beer can.

But one fact remained. Remote and desolate Death Valley Junction meant some nights no one showed at all.

How to fill an Opera House

One would think that no audience would mean take the night off. But not Ms. Becket.

The show must go on.

So Ms. Becket painted an audience

Even a partially filled house would look better with more faces, so Ms. Becket adorned the walls and the ceiling.

Each tour may offer variations on the stories, but a favorite involves the whores from Pahrump. The madam sought to infuse the gals with a cultural experience and often brought them to Ms. Becket’s performances.

Ms. Becket wove in the message of that societal divide with ladies of the night atop one wall. Just below, the unsuspecting wives with their husbands.

Ms. Becket also painted in royalty, jesters, jugglers, nuns, knights — an entire Court awaited her performances.

Tricks of the light

See how lighting reveals more than first met the eye…

Click the image to see the scene with light.
With light, life. A click on this will show what you may be missing.
They say Rhubarb starts to look like Ms. Becket’s second husband Tom Willet with a click.

A look at Ms. Marta Becket

Amargosa and the memory of Marta Becket will linger. Up to age 83, Ms. Becket could still pirouette.

Regardless what future acts play this stage, one decorated front row seat remains reserved for Ms. Becket.


Ms. Becket died in 2017 at the age of 92.

The Amargosa Opera House of Ms. Becket attracted an eclectic worldwide audience and today people continue to tour the Amargosa Opera House and attend shows.

In that regard, Marta Becket literally put Death Valley Junction on the map.

Amargosa Opera House
California Highway 127 and State Line Road
Death Valley Junction, California 92328

1-760-852-4441 (front desk)
Amargosa Opera House

A cafe on the grounds serves delicious vegan and organic dishes, teas and coffees.

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