The Pageant of the Masters is an annual event attended by art lovers every summer. The festival is held by the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach, California. In their own words, the Festival of Arts promotes, produces, and sponsors events and activities that encourage the appreciation, study and performance of the arts.
The Pageant of the Masters is a one-of-a-kind festival which brings art to life, literally. The exclusive and most popular aspect of the event is its tableaux vivants or “living pictures”. This 90 minutes presentation of “living pictures” is about real people posing to look like those in the original paintings and recreating the entire scene as depicted in the art pieces. Art lover or not, one must see this exceptional presentation of art for the unique experience it provides. If you are intrigued then get your hands-on Pageant of the Masters tickets.
About the Pageant
The event takes place in an outdoor amphitheater and every year almost a quarter million people come to enjoy the celebrations of this Pageant that continues for two months (July and August and at times extend to September as well). A total of almost 20 art works are recreated for this theatrical presentation that takes place every night for the duration of these two months.
The entire process to take an art scene from a particular painting and reconstruct it in a live setting takes a lot of effort, hard work and creativity. Effort is put to make it look straight out of a canvas, so that those viewing it appreciate it as an art piece.
As simple as it may sound, it is not an easy feat to achieve. Where in a painting at times all effort is put to make it as realistic as possible and 3-dimensional effects are created for the purpose, here the process is quite the opposite. The artists try to recreate the original painting and aim for a flat 2D look of a painting. This is done with the help of clever makeup, identical costumers, headdresses, sophisticated lighting, props, elaborate sets and backdrops put together by expert staff and hundreds of dedicated volunteers. The theatrical presentation is enhanced with professional orchestra, original score, and live narration.
Beginnings of the Festival of Arts
The Festival of Arts made its beginnings in 1932 in downtown Laguna, when the community was looking for a way to come out of the Great Depression. Hence the idea for an art festival was proposed, where people could come to Laguna Beach and be interested in buying art from local artists. A bunch of artists came together for this endeavor and the idea materialized in 1932. The first festival was held from August 13-20 and was produced by local artist John H. Hinchman.
Spirit of the Masters Pageant Surfaces
To make it fun and entertaining, the idea of creating art with pictures was introduced by artist Lolita Perine and in 1933 at the second Festival of Arts, this idea of the "Spirit of the Masters Pageant" materialized. Since then these two events, the Festival of Arts and the Pageant of the Masters have become an annual summer tradition. The Pageant has become complimentary celebration of art on a community level as well as an international level.
The first presentation of the Pageant when opened to public in 1933 was appreciated, but also met criticism for being an amateur production that needed refinement. Roy Ropp who was an open critic of the Pageant, who was taken on board in 1934 by the Festival’s organizers to suggest improvements and focus on the quality of the Pageant to help elevate its standing.
It was then that he renamed the Pageant and changed it from the "Spirit of the Masters Pageant" to "Pageant of the Masters.” With his wife, Marie, he presented a festival in 1935 which marked a notable difference in the quality of the festival as compared to previous ones. The production found positive reception and encouraged Ropp to refine it further, which he continued to do, until 1941.
Due to the World War II, the festival was suspended for the next four years. When Ropp returned after the war to direct the Pageant there were increasing differences among the Festival’s board and him. The 1950 production turned out to be his last effort for the Pageant of the Masters, but he is still recognized for his efforts to improve the caliber of work presented at the festival and turn it into a world-renowned festival. It is for these efforts that he is known as the "Father of the Pageant."
The Process and the Purpose
The event that takes place in Orange County is appreciated for the unique concept of recreating living pictures. The dedicated artists spend countless hours to create the painting-like figures and scenes. The reproduction of living pictures from classical and modern paintings is done on a massive scale and it is interesting to see how this theater art is created.
The theater presentation also takes you behind the scenes to show how the frame or the painting masterpiece is created on stage. It shows how the huge frame is rolled in and the props are put into location. Then the cast members in costumes and make-up, whom the designers have made every effort to replicate, take their positions. The frame is adjusted to its pre-determined dimensions and the side curtains are trimmed accordingly. The painted background is moved down the stage into the same position as in the original piece of art. The poses of the characters are checked again and finally the magical lighting is created. When everything is ready and final touches have been put, a signal is given to the actors and then the stage goes dark before the beautiful painting is displayed for theatre audiences. The effect is jaw-dropping.
The audiences are awe-struck by the art marvel in front of them that is explained to them by the narrator. A background music complementing the mood and era of the painting transport the audience to the world that the narrator is describing.
The theatrical presentation of art in this form encourages the audience to contemplate the painting from another distinctive angle. The narration and the music along with the living picture make it more exciting for art lovers who can enjoy the painting in a different manner than they otherwise would have. At a museum, they might just have a look and move on, but at this theatre they listen to the narration that informs them on what they are looking at. This makes them enjoy the moment from the past even more and it makes the overall experience an interesting one for everyone. The goal of the narration and other complimenting factors is to make the entire presentation gripping and not to make it sound like an art history lecture.
Pageant of the Masters ticket prices
Every year the Pageant of the Masters brings art work with a new theme. The upcoming Pageant is a special one because it marks two milestones, the 85th anniversary of “living pictures” at the Festival of Arts and the 100th anniversary of Laguna Art Museum. The demand for these tickets is obviously going to be high. If you want to know about Pageant of the Masters ticket prices then check the inventory and get your tickets fast. Usually the tickets become available for general public in December and by January the best ones are taken. It is therefore recommended not to wait till the last moment.