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“The Extraordinary Pageant of the Masters: Laguna Beach, California”

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Stirring . . . Extraordinary . . . Unbelievable . . .

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I have never seen anything like Laguna Beach’s “Pageant of the Masters” in all of my 26 years as a travel writer! They capture the essence of art and transform each piece into “living pictures.” You have seen paintings sitting on the wall in museums, but now, you will never look at art the same way again. Sit in the auditorium under the stars watching the scenes unfold before your eyes! With music, narration, singing, dancing, and scenes from some of the world’s favorite paintings, the Pageant presents a spectacular stage show.

During the show, they demonstrate the secret of how to make art come to life. Their sets are constructed and painted so that when properly lit, the 3-D elements will seamlessly blend to create the optical illusion of a 2-D painting. The casting call begins in January for the nightly July 5-August 28 shows. All volunteers are measured and photographed. They are chosen for parts based on their proportions and how well an individual fits into a pageant set.

Backstage looks like one of Las Vegas’ spectacular production shows. The makeup department precisely applies the effects to duplicate the original work of art. They make an exact copy of the face on the picture and hold it up to compare as the make up is being applied.

The Pageant sculptor helps each actor assume their pose on the set, and different types of walk-in harnesses hold actors. When the scene is lit, the actors must hold their pose for 90 seconds without moving. The Pageant studios are composed of a 10,000 square foot complex of studios for set construction, welding, scene painting, sculpture, headpiece design, along with costume, laundry, and storage space.

We are amazed by all of the different mediums of art which are recreated on stage, on the mountain, and suddenly appearing around us. Every “living picture” tells a story. The “Ancient Gods” (2001) scene, beautiful Anasazi cave oil paintings, show native American artists working by the light of a small fire in their cave. One of the most striking paintings, “The Wanderer in the Mists” (1818), depicts a man standing on a rocky ledge watching the sunset.

After seeing the “Salt Cellar of Francis I” (1543) gold sculpture, we realize why it was called the “Mona Lisa of Sculptures.” It was on exhibit at the Vienna Art History Museum until thieves climbed scaffolding, smashed a window and stole this masterpiece valued at $88 million.

We also see the world through Pablo Picasso’s eyes with his “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907). Henri Matisse’s brightly colored “The Dance II” is an exciting example of his work. The Pageant’s finale, since 1936, is a breathtaking rendition of Leonardo da Vinci‘s “The Last Supper” (1495-98), a mural which originally took over twenty years to complete. This is one of the most important artworks of the Italian Renaissance. The Pageant’s 2004 theme, Portrait of the Artist, focuses on the artist’s creative process. Celebrating what it takes to be an artist, the personal sacrifice, the thousand uncertainties along the way, and the art itself.

We want to thank the management of “Pageant” for all their help, allowing us to film backstage and during the show. The Pageant of the Masters is the longest-running outdoor fine art exhibit. Along with the Pageant, the Festival of the Arts displays unique, one-of-a-kind paintings, sculptures, ceramic, jewelry, photographs, and other works of art. Tickets for the Pageant of the Masters depend on seat location and night of the week. Every seat offers perfect views of the stage and mountain scenes. The Pageant of the Masters- “Where Art Comes to Life”- and Festival of the Arts are located at 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach.

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