Amargosa Haunting

Almost a year ago, a dear friend and I made a pilgrimage to the Amargosa Opera House.

Marta Beckett is no longer the the dancer she was in this photograph, though her spirit still commands the stage with graceful gestures. Her performance that night was profoundly stirring for the audience members of a packed and dim theater.
Of her life and discovery of the hall where we sat, she said,

Peering through the tiny hole, I had the distinct feeling that I was looking at the other half of myself.

She spoke with the concentration of a spirit medium, from some distance down the tunnel of her vivid memories. In the first few sentences it seemed that her mind expanded to encompass the entire house, and we had all turned to spellbound listeners, painted into our chairs.

Her excerpts from the musicals she and her collaborators had produced in earlier days retained the flavor of an unassuming sense of humor, and a former vaudevillian self emerged before us, observing and interacting with Grand Junction residents.

Her ability to create characters which interact and mimic real life, merging with the local culture and landscape, and keeping herself somewhat apart from her surroundings - this paradoxical life reminds me of something I read recently by Orhan Pamuk about his habits as a writer. There is some kind of magic that happens in between our interactions with other people and what we make out it. We all do this, and are conscious of it in very different ways. To see how Ms. Beckett has done this, and continues living with these characters after 40 years, is truly astonishing and mysterious. Forget the red carpets! She winks and dances there with the desert stars.

Go to Death Valley and see for yourself.

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