Sunny Pageant of the Masters


Pageant of the Masters Entry Wall
Under the Sun at Pageant of the Masters 2018 in Laguna Beach, California. Photo by M.C.

Through the years, Pageant of the Masters has focused on the masters like Cezanne, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Picasso, Raphael, Renoir, Vermeer, Leonardo da Vinci, and other artists around the world. But this year the theme is Under the Sun.

The Festival of Arts is celebrating 85 years and the Laguna Art Museum 100 years. Act One celebrates California and quite a bit of Laguna Beach’s art history.

The show opens with a Native American woman dancing near a fire atop a hill, depicting early life in Laguna Beach. The easy storytelling voice of Narrator Richard Doyle explains that a woman’s skull was found in Laguna Beach, dating back 17,000 years! Below, on stage, From the Beginning by bronze sculptor Jorge Fernandez depicts Native Americans sitting and standing on a rock. The first paintings begin with California’s mission era. Toll for Sunrise Mass, Pala Mission by J. Henry Sandham portrays a Native American pulling mission bells in San Antonio, Texas.

Mexican Cattle in Southern California by Artist William Hahn
Mexican Cattle in Southern California, by Artist William Hahn, Oil on Canvas, 1883

Back to California, picturesque paintings show the ranchos like Mexican Cattle Drivers in Southern California by William Hahn, and lithographs of orange crate labels are re-enacted. Both remind me of my ancestral history as my family worked the land and my Mexican grandmother packed oranges in similar crates in an Orange County packing plant.

Also, the artists’ colony and Festival of Art beginning are shown. Robert Kuntz was Laguna’s Renaissance Man known for his oil on canvas of beach scenes, numbers on signs, and freeway overpasses. The New Waves section aerials into the famous The Endless Summer lithograph by John Van Hamersvelf and The Laguna Beach Boys perform a Beach Boys song. Beach balls go flying!

Dejeuner sur LHerbe Claude Monet
Déjeuner sur L’Herbe by Artist Claude Monet, Oil on Canvas, 1865-66

The music is exceptional. I even get a good view of harpist Amy Wilkins before the barrier raises covering the orchestra pit. There are many harp parts in Act Two. Impressionist composer Claude Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1 floats through the air, but with keyboard not the harp. Arabesque is a beautiful piece for the harp with syncopation, but not easy. Claude Monet’s Déjeuner sur L’Herbe comes together. The yellow skirt is snapped in place by a stagehand. Rarely are so many paintings shown coming together. Usually, you only see one painting from behind the scenes.

Catching a Fish at the Beach Bischoff
Catching a Fish at the Beach by Artist Franz A. Bischoff, Oil on Canvas, c. 1920


No photography is allowed of these “living pictures,” but a video has surfaced on YouTube of Catching Fish at the Beach by Laguna Beach artist Franz A. Bischoff at the Under the Sun production. Maybe revealing the secretive demonstration to the media is a new thing. I won’t put in the link. Seeing the painting made before you go will dampen some of the magic.

At the end as tradition stands, Leonardo di Vinci’s The Last Supper comes together. The apostles step up to the table then Jesus is helped up the steps. The audience is quiet. The life-size painting turns around and the frame is set in place. From behind me, the wife moans, “Oh. Oh. Oh. My. Goaah.” She’s in shock at what she sees. Then the husband says, “Oh Shit.” The young couple have been sipping margaritas for the past ninety minutes.

Pageant of the Masters is the show to see for all ages. Many locals haven’t gone. You are missing out. The natural setting of chaparral-covered hills on a warm night under the setting sun is a great way to create memories with your family and friends.

Opening Night is busy but we find street parking in front of the Sawdust. We feed $6.50 in quarters that lasts about four hours, but the meter takes credit cards too. There is a $7 pay lot on Laguna Canyon where you can take the trolley for free.

Be there or be square!

Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. Pageant Tickets: 1-800-487-3378. Performances nightly, beginning at 8:30 p.m.: July 7-September 1, 2018.

Copyright 2018 Melissa Crismon



Bewitched by The Tempest

Prospera and Ariel
Kate Burton as Prospera, Nora Carroll as Miranda, and Philippe Bowgen as Ariel in The Tempest, by William Shakespeare, runs June 17 – July 22, 2018 at The Old Globe. Photo by Jim Cox.

The Tempest 

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” Prospera breaks her staff then sets it on a movie theater seat before slipping away.

Director Joe Dowling’s vision of The Tempest at The Old Globe whirls dreams and reality together with spell caster Kate Burton as Prospera.

Flotsam and jetsam are strewn about in front of a two-story stucco building. Collaborating with Scenic Designer Alexander Dodge, the director imagines the sandy beach breaking through into a theater.

As all good stories do, The Tempest starts with action. Philippe Bowgen as Ariel reports he has safely shipwrecked the King of Naples, Antonio—the usurping Duke of Milan, and the crew. Prospera, Duchess of Milan, lives in exile with her daughter Miranda on a deserted island after being thrown out of power by Prospera’s brother. But no worries there are spirits to keep them company, Prospera’s books to work her dark magic, and of course young love thanks to the shipwreck.

A helm in the middle signifies the ship. The crew enters in simple black clothes and beanies. One turns a large funnel with paper to create wind, another shakes metal for thunder and another holds a drum for more affects. More crew enters with an off-white cloth—two of the cast are on the balcony and two below holding onto the corners and fighting the elements. Others pull ropes of the out-of-view sails.

Kate Burton plays Prospero, or in this case—Prospera the witch. She is the stern, but caring mother whose temper and magic collide. Maybe it’s the blonde hair and the chaotic past couple of years, but the way she throws her arms out and head back with her control freak nature one can’t help but hear the maniacal laughter of Hillary Clinton. She uses her sorcery for her daughter Miranda played by Nora Carroll to bring Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples, to the island.

Between news of a shipwreck—for colonizing efforts—reaching England in 1610 and Shakespeare’s reading of Sir Anthony Shirley’s journeys to Persia and Russia, he imagined a magical island. Perhaps colonization brings out the master and servant theme with Prospero and Ariel and Caliban, and the crew to the ship’s captain.

Ferdinand played by Sam Avishay falls head over heels for Miranda at first sight. He too is tested by Prospera and made a servant. Nora Carroll pities him and shockingly offers to be his wife. In their voluntary ‘service,’ true freedom is found in love.

Dark magic and mythology enhance David Israel Reynoso’s costume design. Prospera delights the young couple Miranda and Ferdinand with a trio of fallen angels singing a Supremes mash-up. Samantha Sutliff as Juno is an ancient Roman goddess, the protector and special counselor of the state. She is also the daughter of Saturn, the wife of Jupiter and the mother of Mars. The trio glide around in platforms and 1960s fitted dresses with a slit up the thigh, and a framed cube set off-kilter over their heads. Sutliff sings to Carroll like she is an angel, fairy godmother, or Frankie Avalon in the movie Grease, then ends with an exaggerated vocal run for a laugh.

An audience member mentions Aquaman at the sight of Ariel in his blue sequined unitard. They are on an island. Though Ariel controls air and fire. Caliban controls water and earth. If Ariel is a merman then Manoel Felciano’s Caliban looks like a sludgy water toad.

Alonso, the King of Naples, played by Robert Foxworth falls on his knees terrified by the devil. The red-horned beast with red-hot pokers up and down his arms is something out of Aeneas’ journey into the Underworld, who was influenced by the poet Dante. Above Kate Burton casts a spell in a red and purple sequined robe with a golden staff.

The Old Globe’s 2011 ethereal production of The Tempest was filled with dreamy pastels, a minimalist stage, and an Irish jig. The year is 2018 and we are woke from our sleep recalling a dark and whimsical dream that haunts and delights. This is what fairy tales are made on.

Azuki Sushi 

The balmy breeze stirs between the buildings as a line forms at the renowned Azuki Sushi. With a reservation, we are asked, “Upstairs or downstairs?” We follow the young hostess up the narrow stairs to a red-cushioned and warm-wood tabled patio that seemed like the VIP lounge we viewed from afar last time. The setting sun creeps through the slatted walls. The moistest rice and nori wraps tempt me all week. But some items aren’t available this time around. The menu seems to change and isn’t always fun for the cruelty-free eater.

The mackerel isn’t available the waitress tells Renaissance Man, but the Spanish mackerel is. On a small square plate, a skinned fish is curled up like the “fortune teller miracle fish” with the insides spilling out. Fortune says I’m feeling sad. The waitress says she can take the outer part away. She doesn’t seem comfortable either.

The Green sushi roll is gluten-free and vegan, but the asparagus is a bit too crunchy. The Shiitaki roll from last time was perfect, but is one of the items missing on the menu. There is savory miso soup with fresh shiitaki mushrooms. There are four different kinds of miso soup. The Cucumber and Avocado roll is perfect like last time. The root vegetable fries are tasty, but a bit greasy.

The menu is for a range of palates. Like The Tempest, Azuki Sushi is enchanting.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare directed by Joe Dowling runs June 17 – July 22, 2018 at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre.

The Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101. Box Office (619) 234-5623.

Copyright 2018 Melissa Crismon