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Time traveling at the Amargosa Opera House

Gypsy Time Traveler Christy Horne is taking center stage at the Amargosa Opera House every weekend in November, regaling audiences with a sword-swinging, hoop-slinging evening of good old-fashioned entertainment.

Horne is a professional storyteller whose one-woman show first debuted at the Opera House in 2014, under the watchful eye of legendary dancer Marta Becket.

Horne, who self-identifies as a desert rat, recently moved to Tecopa after over 20 years traveling the festival and fair circuit with her former husband. They were known as the Gypsy Time Travelers and they lived and worked in a castle-shaped RV called Florence, which they built themselves. That nomadic lifestyle led to all sorts of adventures, as well as a variety of business ventures, including the Contraptionarium, a convergence of contraption craftsmen, at the Calaveras County Fair.

While she could certainly fill an hour telling stories of her own adventures, onstage at the Opera House, Horne becomes her alter-ego, Christine MacKenzie, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland and learned Gaelic from her four old aunties.

With a lilting accent and sometimes wielding a giant, hand-forged Medieval-style sword, MacKenzie brings to life a mythical past. Chosen either by herself or by a member of the audience from the pockets of a handmade story quilt, Horne/MacKenzie’s stories are often epic tales of long ago, in which a clever and resourceful underdog prevails.

When she isn’t channeling the storytelling MacKenzie, Horne does hoop dancing, a talent she said she picked up on the festival circuit after watching a group of girls practicing one day. She’s picked up or spent time honing a broad range of skills since leaving her original career as a certified public accountant, she said.

The real Horne was born in San Diego, and first met Marta Becket in 1978 when Horne was 16. Horne went on to earn an accounting degree and teach accounting, but her true passion was writing and drawing and she always remembered Becket. She married Michael Olson, who had a passion for blacksmithing and building unusual contraptions.

They had two children and used to camp in Death Valley with a large group of friends once a year. “We’d always go and see Marta,” Horne said.

When Horne and her husband decided to follow their passions and quit their day jobs to go on the fair circuit, where the old-fashioned arts they loved were still appreciated, they continued to visit the Opera House every year. In 2013, they were invited to participate in a fundraising event there. Marta Becket saw Horne hoop dancing one day and told her, “Someday you’ll do that on my stage.” The following year, Horne did her first one-woman show in Death Valley Junction.

The Gypsy Time Travelers frequently spent the winter months in Tecopa, where Horne said she has friends who are her spirit family. She’d always intended to retire in Tecopa, she said, and when she and her husband split last May, it seemed the perfect time.

Horne said she is now a permanent resident of the tiny desert town and has a number of ideas about her future. She revealed that she is considering letting go of the persona of Christine MacKenzie and the colorful, eclectic, Steampunk-style costume she wears. “I think I may hang up the costume and just become myself,” she said. She plans to do more writing and is working on a stand-up comedy routine.

Horne has written and illustrated two children’s books, as well as a collection of some of her stage stories in the book “Tales From the Forge.”

All of Horne’s books, as well as an audio recording of some of her stories, are available for purchase after the show at the Opera House, and also at the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort Art Gallery.

Robin Flinchum is a freelance writer and editor living in Tecopa, California.

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