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The Fossemalle Dance Studio and Santa Ynez Valley Performing Arts Company are joining forces to give a helping hand to world-famous artist, Marta Becket and the Amargosa Opera House at Death Valley Junction, a two-hour drive from Las Vegas.

Becket has dedicated her life to art, as a dancer, painter, composer and a rescuer of wild horses and burros for the past 40 years.

Originally from New York City, Becket performed as a dancer at the Radio City Music Hall, but realized an inner need to create her own art, which led her to travel throughout the United States.

During a touring season of her one-woman show in California, she accidentally came upon Death Valley Junction, having encountered car trouble. As she wandered around the desolate and nearly abandoned town, she peeked through the keyhole of an old abode structure, and discovered Bthe other half of my life."

BThere was this stage, waiting to be used. It took me one day to decide to leave my New York life and relocate to Death Valley Junction to create my world,C said Becket.

It was there and then that she made the decision to change her life, reaching agreement with the town manager to rent the old Borax meeting hall for ,45 a month, and pay for all repairs and maintenance.

Becket was true to her word, and has been there ever since, following her passion, against all odds, living for her art.

At first, she was committed to doing performances on Friday, Saturday and Monday 7 regardless of whether she had an audience. In an effort to create the audience she needed for inspiration and fulfillment, she decided to paint one. It took her four years to complete the mural, a Renaissance scene depicting the whole of society, from the king and queen, lords and ladies, to the monks, nuns and paupers. She painted only during the off-season, in the sweltering summer months.

BWhen the mural was completed I had this empty feeling inside,C said Becket. BI didn/t know what I was going to do with my summers.C

She soon realized that another canvas was waiting for her 7 the ceiling. She put up scaffolding during the summer, and it took her two years to complete the mural on the ceiling, which she did standing up.

Becket began this work in 1968 and completed it in 1974. In 1970, a group from National Geographic came to do a story on Death Valley National Park. They stopped at the Junction and found the Amargosa Opera House. Out of curiosity, they entered, to find Becket doing a performance 7 with no audience except for the unfinished mural of her Binvited guests.C

She was later profiled in National Geographic and Life Magazine. As the news of her performances spread, the theater filled with real people from all over the world.

At 83, Becket performs only one show a week, on Saturday nights, from October to May. Her followers descend on the little cultural oasis by bus and by car to discover her world 7 a world in which a person can become lost in the art of the one-woman show.

Becket is busy creating her next show, BLife is a Three Ring Circus,C preparing new sets, costumes and lyrics. But at this time in her life, she says she is concerned with the future of her accomplishment.

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At the Junction stands an adobe structure waiting to be refurbished, perfectly suited to be transformed into a museum, where Becket/s elaborately hand-painted stage sets could be displayed, along with other memorabilia, including the costumes from her shows, and the dummies she used to replace herself as she acts out all of the characters in her many shows.

BThis incredible lifetime of art must be preserved, and time is of the essence,C said Christine Fossemalle, owner of Fossemalle Dance Studio.

The Fossemalle Dance Studio and the Santa Ynez Valley Performing Arts Company are committing their 22nd year of teaching dance and their 21st year of performing to the cause.

BIn an effort to generate much-needed funds, we wish to encourage all arts patrons, and enthusiasts to help financially, in any way possible, in order to ensure and protect this work of art for future generations to enjoy,C said Fossemalle. BIt is a way for the Santa Ynez Valley to become a part of history.C

The first of several fund-raising events will be an introduction to Becket/s world, a screening of the documentary BAmargosa,C depicting her life, and will reveal her help with saving wild burros and horses, the haunted hotel and the local handyman who became her friend. The film made the Academy Awards finalist list in 2000, and received many awards. The documentary will be screened with Bthe personal support of its filmmakers, Todd Robinson and Kenneth Carlson, and the enthusiastic contribution of the Gran family and the Park Plaza Movie Theatre in Buellton,C said Fossemalle.

The screening will be at 9:30 a.m. June 28 at the Parks Plaza Theater on McMurray Road in Buellton. There will also be a raffle for the movie poster signed by Becket. Tickets cost ,10 each, and may be purchased at Fossemalle Dance Studio, 3595 Numancia St. in Santa Ynez. A few tickets may be available at the door, unless the show is sold out.

The Amargosa Opera House is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation. All proceeds from this event will go toward the Museum Fund. Any patrons of the arts wishing to match the funds collected from this event are welcome to contact Fossemalle at 688-8494.

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