My readership, if web statistics are to be believed, has actually perked up a bit, and I now have a tiny audience that seems to be interested in what I have to write each day. This is a good thing, but of course, I’m greedy. I look longingly at blogs that have readerships in the tens of thousands, and so wish that this blog were one of them.
Yet as nice as that would be, it still would just be…nice. Above all, the most important thing in all of this is to write, no matter how small the audience. And when I think of the importance of this, I think of Marta Becket, and The Amargosa Opera House in Death Valley Junction, California.
Becket, who was born in 1924, took up ballet at 14, and became a well known ballerina, performing at Radio City Music Hall, and then appearing in such Broadway shows as Wonderful Town, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Show Boat. In 1967, while driving through California, her car had a flat tire in Death Valley Junction. She discovered a theater in the virtually abandoned town, and decided to stay.
She rented the theater, renamed it The Amargosa Opera House, and began performing there. Eventually, word of Becket’s performances in this out of the way theater (to put it mildly) piqued the interest of those in Los Angeles and elsewhere, and people started coming to Death Valley Junction to see her. Among the people who became Becket fans were Red Skelton and Ray Bradbury.
Yes, Becket developed an audience, but it’s her early years of performing that really make me think of my work on this blog, and of my audience size. In particular, it’s a detail in a 1970 National Geographic article about her, in which the writer came to see her perform. This article, in fact, was a prime force in telling people about Becket, because before the article, virtually no one knew about her.
So it was that when the writer came to see Becket perform, he saw that she was dancing before an audience of…no one. It did not matter to Becket that she had no fan base. She was so devoted to her art that the approval of others was unimportant to her.
Becket actually performed alone for a long time. For most of those three years, from 1967 to 1970, no one knew about this woman who performed at The Amargosa Opera House, and Becket, it would seem, didn’t care. No, all that was important was her art. Just doing it.
I was fortunate enough to see Amargosa, the 2000 documentary about Becket, and I quickly went from finding her eccentric to finding her something of a heroine. Here was this woman who cared nothing for fame, who just cared about doing something she loved. Had no one ever heard about the Amargosa Opera House, it would have meant nothing to Becket…she would have just kept on dancing.
So it is with this blog. Yes, I don’t have Becket’s complete purity; in other words, it would be awfully nice if more people came to this blog. At the same time, though, it’s good to remember that the size of the audience really doesn’t mean much. Above all, it’s simply about getting out there, and doing what you love, heedless of the number of people who are taking in what you do.
So when I write, I think of Marta Becket, performing alone in The Amargosa Opera House. Perhaps, like her, there are days that no one reads what I write. And it really doesn’t matter, because I love doing it, and will continue doing it anyway.