Pageant of the Masters
The Pageant of the Masters is an annual festival held by the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach, California. The event is known for its tableaux vivants or "living pictures" in which classical and contemporary works of art are recreated by real people who are made to look nearly identical to the originals through the clever application of costumes, makeup, headdresses, lighting, props, and backdrops.
The first Festival of Arts occurred in 1932, and the first presentation of the Pageant occurred in 1933. Since then, the two events have been held each summer, apart from a four-year interruption caused by World War II.
In 1933, at the second Festival of Arts, artist Lolita Perine had an idea for a living work of art. Convincing residents of Laguna Beach to dress in costume, she seated them behind an oversized frame, recreating well-known works of art. The "Spirit of the Masters Pageant" was formally started the next year by the Festival's organizers and was put on again in 1934, but in those early days was a dismally amateurish operation. In 1934, local developer Roy Ropp expressed his dissatisfaction with the poor quality of the production in blunt terms; the Festival's board responded to his frank criticism by placing him in charge of the Pageant. He renamed it the "Pageant of the Masters" and with the assistance of his wife Marie, organized a high-quality and well-received production in the summer of 1935. Building upon this initial success, the Ropps continued to refine and improve the Pageant through its 1941 production; then the Festival and Pageant were suspended for four years due to World War II. Because of increasing personal friction between the Ropps and the Festival's board, Roy Ropp came back only once after the war to direct the Pageant, in 1950. He died in 1974, but today is still remembered as the "Father of the Pageant."
The Pageant is held eight weeks each summer and consists of 90 minutes of "living pictures" accompanied by a professional narrator, an orchestra, and period songs by professional vocalists. It hosts more than a quarter million people each year.
Like all nonprofit volunteer projects in general, the Pageant is put on by a small paid staff and several hundred volunteers. Production begins in January with auditions and casting of volunteers from all over Southern California; it takes over 60,000 volunteer hours to put on the two-month Pageant in July and August. Today, the costumes and makeup involved are very elaborate and often require large commitments of volunteer time (in terms of arriving early and staying late), so to reduce the impact on individual volunteers, the Pageant selects two full casts known as Blue and Green, which then alternate back and forth.
- Malloy, Betsy. "Pageant of the Masters, a Southern California Tradition". Retrieved 2007-05-06.
- Dan Duling, 2008 Pageant of the Masters: All the World's A Stage, Official Souvenir Program (Laguna Beach: Festival of the Arts, 2008), p. 64.
- Duling (2008), pp. 64-65.
- Duling (2008), pp. 65-66.
- Duling (2008), p. 66.
- FESTIVAL OF ARTS. "Festival History". Retrieved 2007-05-06.
- Traditional Fine Art Online, Inc. "1999 Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach, California". Retrieved 2007-05-06.