Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, Death Valley Junction, California
Tribute by Jeffrey Sward
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The entire town of Death Valley Junction is essentially one U-shaped building. The building includes a cafe, post office, hotel, and the Amargosa Opera House. The Amargosa Opera House was previously an auditorium named Corkill Hall. The entire complex was built in 1923 by the Borax company and subsequently abandoned in the 1940s.

The entire city of Death Valley Junction was purchased by Marta Becket in 1974. Various ad-hoc restoration projects followed as a personal project for Marta,. Restoration projects included an auditorium, named the Amargosa Opera House, which became a venue for her dance performances. Parts of the main building became the hotel and contain the site for Marta's elaborate series of murals.

The cafe had been closed for many years. Apparently as of 2009, the Amargosa Cafe was reopened under the management of Larry and Theresa Cantwell. Last known cafe schedule was daily breakfast and lunch, Friday and Saturday dinner. In December 2010, the Amargosa Cafe closed by Amargosa Hotel director Richard Regnell as part of a power struggle. The most likely explanation is that the Cantwells believed they were lessees running their own business as independent contractors while Regnell viewed them as employees, with a resulting dispute over distribution of revenue.

The post office remains closed.

Late in life, Marta Becket has come on hard times. In 2005 her long time companion Tom Willett died. Around 2007 Marta broke some bones and needed hip surgery in October 2009. Her dance shows become hand puppet shows given from a chair. In 2009-2010 dancer Sandra Scheller was giving a dance show “If These Walls Could Talk,” a tribute to Becket. However, the relations with Sandra Scheller turned into a bitter dispute over pay and/or interpersonal factors by the end of 2010. [Refer to note below]. Some time after the death of Tom Willett, Richard Regnell became the director of operations at the Amargosa Opera House and the principal caretaker of Marta Becket. Regnell has been variously described as having questionable character, being an outlaw gang leader, and kidnapper. Yet Marta has said: "Rich [Regnell] and [his girl friend] Mary Lee Chavez are the best friends I’ve ever had." Marta Becket died in 2017 at the age of 92.

As of October 2017, Marta Becket protégé Hilda Vazquez is performing choreography by Marta Becket on an occasional basis in the Opera House auditorium. Sandra Scheller is scheduled to perform a segment of an anniversary show on February 10, 2018.

These articles in the Pahrump Valley Times describe recent disturbing events. Amargosa Opera House dispute headed to court, and Amargosa Opera House the subject of a real life drama.

Steeped in history, the Amargosa Opera House is worth a visit. The variable state of repair of the premises is part of the charm. Many of the rooms contain murals painted by Marta. Performances by Marta were given Saturday nights during the season. The current performance schedule is indeterminate. .

Visit the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel web site.

Additional information from Sandy Scheller:

There wasn't a financial dispute. [...] Trust me, pay dispute was the last thing and we all know what happened to Rich. Hilda is amazing and finally there is peace at the Junction. I left because of Rich isolating Marta from the world including me on Christmas Day 2010. No one gets financially rich in Death Valley junction but artistically, once you have danced in the Opera House, you feel like a millionaire!  -- Sandy Scheller January 2018:


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