Art will take center stage at memorial for desert dancer Marta Becket

Friends and fans of Marta Becket will gather Friday to remember the late performer at the opera house she founded in the desert ghost town of Death Valley Junction, California.

The celebration of life at the Amargosa Opera House, 95 miles west of Las Vegas, is set to begin at 2 p.m. and last until everyone goes home, said Rhonda Shade, who described herself as Becket’s best friend and manager of the performance hall and hotel.

The event, open to everyone, will take place 49 years to the day of Becket’s first one-woman show at the opera house, which she and her then-husband opened in 1968 inside the Pacific Coast Borax Co.’s abandoned community hall on the property.

Becket, 92, died at her home in Death Valley Junction on Jan. 30.

Shade said the celebration of her life will include a performance on the opera house stage by ballerina Hilda Vazquez, live string music and slide shows, audio recordings and videos of Becket’s work. The cafe will serve espresso and eclairs while the gallery shows off some of Becket’s paintings, including a canvas she completed a few weeks before her death — a street scene of her native New York City called “Happy Days Were Here Again.”

The event will also give visitors a first look at a new museum dedicated to Becket’s life.

Shade said they’re prepared for the celebration to stretch into the night with s’mores and sparklers around the fire pit.

“I’m just trying to do what I think she would have liked,” she said, bursting into tears.

Contact Henry Brean at or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.

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