The other side of the curtain



Publication Details

Lucchitti, I. M. 2011, 'The other side of the curtain', Life Writing: Exploring the Contemporary Meanings of Narratives, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 411-420.


Marta Becket was born in New York in 1924 into a life immersed in the arts. As an infant, she listened to her mother's music at home and attended the theatre with her father, theatre critic Henry Beckett. The crib in which she slept, flooded with flickering neon lights, became her first performance space as she tried within its confines to replicate what she had seen in the theatre. Throughout her childhood and in the days of her youth, she trained in ballet and in art. In her early career, she worked on Broadway, dancing in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Wonderful Town and working as a Radio City Music Hall Rockette. She developed a onewoman show with which she toured the country until the life-changing day in 1967 when she happened upon an abandoned theatre in Death Valley Junction. She soon made it her own and re-fashioned it as the Amargosa Opera House. In this most unlikely place, she has performed works of her own creation for more than 40 years. In its appearance, format and content, Becket's autobiography, To Dance on Sands, which appeared in 2007, reflects a life only truly lived in art and on stage. The dissenting voice of the author is heard on every page, as she considers and refuses anything that might compromise her life as an artist or the art itself. This paper will consider Becket's early inter-related wishes to enter ever 'other' worlds and to create an exoticised self as expressions of a personal and artistic dissent that, while seeming to find fulfilment in her self-positioning in Death Valley Junction, produces a self that is both theatricalised and elusive.

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