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Finding Aid for the Marta Becket Papers, ca. 1969-
1399  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
The collection consists of materials related to the development and growth of the Amargosa Opera House as a performance venue by Marta Becket and Tom Williams and the productions created by Marta Becket since the theatre's opening in 1968.
Background
Marta Becket was born in New York City in 1924 and raised there until she was six. She moved with her mother to Harrisburg, Penn. and later to Philadelphia where she studied piano and art. At the age of 12, after her parents divorce, she returned with her mother to New York where she studied interpretive dance with Ingaborg Tarrup and ballet with Mme. Dorothy Duval. During the Depression, she dropped out of high school to begin a full-time dance career. She danced in nightclubs, army and navy hospitals and theater restaurants, became a member of the corps de ballet at Radio City Music Hall and then performed in the 1946 revival of Showboat. Becket also modeled for fashion magazines and did freelance art work. She then won a role in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and performed at the Alvin Theatre during its year long run which ended in 1951. Her next musical role was in Wonderful Town with Rosalind Russell which opened at the Wintergarden Theatre in 1953 for another year long run. Becket continued with her art work and illustrated Stories of the Great Ballets, by George Balanchine (Doubleday & Co., 1954) and Star Performance, by Walter Terry (Doubleday & Co., 1954). She developed a repertoire for solo concerts and began touring in 1955. During this time she met Tom Williams who became her husband and manager. While traveling through Death Valley in 1967, Becket and Williams came across the Amargosa Hotel, which they had first seen in 1964. On this visit, Marta Becket discovered Corkhill Hall, an abandoned community center and theatre built by the Pacific Borax Company. She saw the theater as a place to fulfill her creativity and love of performing. In August 1967, Becket and Williams took over Corkhill Hall which Becket renamed the Amargosa Opera House. While they renovated the theatre and hotel together, Becket created pantomime dance productions which first opened to the public in February 1968. She then painted the walls and ceiling of the theatre with elaborate murals of costumed spectators for her performances and added more murals to the Amargosa Hotel. Through the efforts of Becket and Williams, the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel were named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. Marta Becket continues to create new productions and perform for audiences in Death Valley Junction.
Extent
5 boxes (2.5 linear ft.)1 oversize box.
Restrictions
Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.
Availability
COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.