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.
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!
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.
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
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