The Pageant of the Masters is a Laguna Beach, California exhibition of classic to contemporary artworks – paintings and sculpture – through a centuries old theatrical art form called “tableaux vivants” or “living pictures.” In tableaux vivants, live actors pose for several minutes at a time as figures in artworks. The 90-minute Pageant, performed nightly through. www.descol.hr

Each year’s production includes lavish sets and costumes, dramatic make-up and wigs, as well as themed music and dancing, to produce large proscenium sized artworks.

Skip Connover, narrator of the production, has often been the voice of the “Oscars.” Richard Henn arranges and conducts the orchestral works, employing styles and genres of music to complement the pictures.

In 2010, on the occasion of the Pageant’s 77th anniversary, “Eat, Drink & Be Merry,” celebrates the good life through paintings and sculpture. It includes festive works by 17th century Dutch artist, Jan Steen, 19th century pieces by Americans Frederic Remington and Reginald Marsh and works by several modern and contemporary artists, including a piece by local Laguna artist, Scott Moore.

In 2008, on the Pageant’s 75th birthday, producers looked back to this art form’s history, presenting “All The World’s A Stage,” taking its title and theme from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”

Pageant director Diane Challis Davy presented history lessons throughout the production, including a video of the history of the art of tableaux vivants. This video took the audience back to the Pageant’s beginnings in 1933 when artist/ vaudevillian Lolita Perine created the first Living Pictures presentation. For that inaugural show, she dressed local residents in costumes and seated them behind a frame. Two years later, Roy Ropp, construction worker/amateur artist, began developing the pageant into its present format, naming it “The Spirit of the Masters.” The following year, the production was renamed “Pageant of the Masters.”

Diane Challis Davy selected “All The World’s A Stage” to showcase crossovers between the worlds of theater and art, focusing on the lives and legends of actors, singers, dancers and other performers depicted by artists from Europe, America and Asia. “In my research, I discovered that artists like Edgar Degas, Reginald Marsh, Everett Shinn and others enjoyed spending their leisure hours in the theatres, circuses and ballets,” she explained. Among the “living pictures” that year were a statue of Shakespeare; a painting of Hamlet; scenes from The Commedia Dell’Arte, from the early Renaissance; pictures depicting paintings of Moliere characters from 17th century France; and scenes of dancers by Toulouse Lautrec.

In that 2008 seminal production, some of the dancers wore Toulouse Lautrec costumes and performed turn of the 20th century Parisian nightclub dances.

Each year’s Pageant of the Masters production has its own interesting twist. The producers conceived this year’s “Eat, Drink & Be Merry” during our current difficult times. What better time than now to celebrate the good life!

By yanam49

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