“All the world’s a stage,” and the players are meeting in Laguna Beach. This year The Pageant of the Masters is celebrating its 75th Anniversary with a theme of the same: “All the World’s a Stage.”
The pageant re-creates famous works of art in the vein of tableaux vivants, a tradition that dates back to medieval pageants and plays. There is a wealth of historical information via video and narration on the history of the tableaux as well as the history of the pageant and its creators.
With scenes representing classical and contemporary works and encompassing pieces such as paintings, porcelain figurines, and even metal sculptures, this truly is where you can find art coming to life. Using its theme, the pageant also framed its re-creations with theatrical and musical numbers.
The outdoor amphitheater’s canvas is filled with the colors of the orchestra’s original score, the voices of actors and singers, the slapstick of Commedia Dell’Arte players, and of course the volunteers who posed and painted the incredibly faithful re-creations of original art works.
The effort that goes into the planning of pageant and its nightly performances ⎯ from the application of makeup and costume design to the precise lighting used ⎯ is amazing. Each aspect is sculpted together for re-creations to delight even the most discriminating critic.
One of the best re-creations was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s oil painting entitled “At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance.” The depth perspective the professionals and volunteers are able to achieve is breathtaking. “The Passing Leap,” an oil by John Steuart Curry, caused a collective combination of gasps and sighs at the realization that there were real people holding the positions of the people who had once just been still brush strokes in a painting.
There were many other pieces leaving viewers in awe as to how the recreations could be so realistic, some based on how little it seemed some of the people were wearing and others based on the poses. One such piece was the recreation of the bronze “Olympic Spirit” by Edward Eyth.
The pageant of living pictures lasts roughly 90 minutes, though it could have been a few minutes shorter had they cut the awkward Can Can number, which closes out the First Act. The dancers, to be generous, shift their skirts and move their legs more than dance, with one girl on the main stage kicking about all over the stage like a fish out of water. The video footage shown during this bizarre number can be likened to riding through a tunnel in Willy Wonka’s boat.
With so many beautiful re-creations, it’s difficult to choose only a few as noteworthy. During the show ⎯ and in the purchasable collective program ⎯ the behind-the-scenes look we are given of how the production is put together does not take away from that beauty. Many aspects of the pageant assist in creating a greater appreciation and respect for artwork of all kinds.
Arriving at the pageant an hour or more early is recommended to give you at least a little time to enjoy the outdoor art gallery, which features a wide range of works by local artists. Many pieces are available for purchase, but know that original and one-of-a-kind pieces often mean price tags that come with heavy brush strokes. If you’re not interested in the gallery, you can still use the extra time to tackle the restroom lines, sip a glass of merlot, or grab a caffeine jolt from the coffee stand. Your ticket from the pageant also is a season pass to the art and events the Festival of Arts has to offer.
The 75th Anniversary season of the Pageant of the Masters’ “All the World’s a Stage” is a work of art in and of itself that you won’t want to miss.
Performances run nightly through August 30. Tickets, though most nights are already sold out, range from $15 to $150. The theatre and festival are located at 650 Laguna Canyon Rd. Laguna Beach, CA 92651. Tickets can be purchased at (800) 487-3378 or online at www.lagunafestivalofarts.org