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Laguna Beach

 Volume 11, Issue 67  | August 20, 2019


Suzie’s ARTiculation

The 2018 Pageant of the Masters, “Under the Sun,” delivers an endless summer of Laguna-style fun

By SUZIE HARRISON

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Everything “Under the Sun” in Laguna has been considered for this year’s Pageant, with the theme a tribute to our town’s creative heritage as an artists’ colony as well as a recognition of its contributions to the surf culture – and the show features the quintessential origins of the Missions in addition to some of the most iconic works throughout time. 

It doesn’t get any better than this. Now celebrating its 85th anniversary of masterfully bringing works of art to life, the Pageant of the Masters is a true treasure. 

Laguna’s history as an artist colony will take center stage, illustrated in works by some of the founders, including creative masters William Griffith, Edgar Payne, Anna Althea Hills and Joseph Kleitsch, to mention a few, spanning to a work by current Festival exhibitor, Jorge Fernandez, a 2010 bronze piece, “From the Beginning,” which aptly opens Act I.

I can’t count how many years I’ve been to the press preview event of the Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts, but it’s truly magical, unique, and awe inspiring. 

To experience the behind-the-scenes action, see the inner workings of each specific department and all the different facets and detail that go into each recreated artwork and each Pageant – it’s fascinating beyond belief. 

the 2018 Flag Festival

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A recreation of “Flag Raising Over Irvine,” kicked off the evening a 1946 Pageant tableaux, which symbolized this year’s return of the American flag at the Festival

Technical Director Butch Hill in his 34th year puts it all together with his choreography of lights and movement – a major challenge, as all moving pieces must be synchronized just right.

“We have some beautiful colorful pieces this year and a lot of landscapes, very impressionistic local work,” Hill said. “The whole story that we’re going to tell in the first act is awesome. Just the history of Laguna and art. It’s super colorful.” 

The Pageant is featuring a lot of paintings this year. 

“So the lights are tied into the set design. When I am thinking of the set design I have to think of how it’s going to work within the set,” Hill said.

To get the lighting down for all the pieces Hill said it takes about two rehearsals for each piece; which is what they’ve been doing since February.

Reagan Foy, Costume Director, explained that the costumes are all made out of muslin, a finely-woven cotton fabric, introduced to Europe from the Middle East in the 17th century. The costumes are all painted using a textile paint to look like the pieces, and fit both sets of cast members.

the 2018 cool orange crates

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Seeing the cast in the living pictures up close is always exciting, “The Orange Crate Labels” are deliciously fantastic, a sure crowd pleaser

“With the ‘Under the Sun’ theme, we have a lot of sunbathers, and people at the beach,” Foy said. “One of the most challenging pieces we did this year for costumes was ‘Surfriders’ because we had to manipulate the body shapes to be a little bit different than the average person. So it’s a lot of foam pieces that we cut and created those extreme shapes on the bodies.”

Each costume is about a week’s worth of work between cutting the patterns, building the costumes, fitting a cast member, making alterations, and bringing a cast member back in for a second fitting.

 “It’s a challenge in and of itself. It becomes a lot of manipulating and draping on our cast members and once they’re in the set, figuring out where we need to manipulate the fabric either by putting in darts or putting Velcro in pieces to something on the set or other pieces of the costume so we really get that movement,” Foy explained. “Plus in addition to that our painters really help us out with all of those paintbrush strokes in there to really get that movement as well.”

Director extraordinaire Dee Challis Davy said her favorite works this year are, “Pleasures of the Beach-Mosaic by Millard Sheets. Public Mural art in Santa Monica. A very challenging piece to reproduce. The music to accompany is “Surf’s Up” by Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks.”

She enjoys some of the short vignettes in this year’s show, and “a very fun and rousing end of Act 1.”

Watching the sculptors work, I can tell the completed Serra Chapel Retablo is going to be sensational.

“We have recreated it twice in the past,” Challis Davy said. “This time it is presented on our turntable stage and is preceded by a procession of Father Serra on the “Camino Real.”

the 2018 rymar scenic

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David Rymar (pictured) and David Cooke are just remarkable at recreating the original works into sets

Scriptwriter Dan Duling is also masterful at his work.

“Themes make the research just that much more fun because even if we were to select a piece we’d done before, we’d be looking at presenting it in a different context, perhaps from a completely different angle, and always with a vision of its place within the entire production,” Duling said. 

He explained that much must be taken into account since every second of the Pageant involves so much work by every department. 

“It’s a daunting task that’s still fun after all these years (this is the 38th Pageant script I’ve written) because of my pride in what we’ve managed to accomplish and the thrill of being part of such a unique production,” Duling said. “Dee and I remain united in our commitment to making the show as theatrically exciting and fresh as possible for both our returning audiences and a new generation of audiences we hope will want to come back again.”

the 2018 builder POM

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Showing how the works are put together with the cast, and how it’s assembled, is called “the builder” and is a definite fan favorite

He added, “But, as always, the Pageant remains a win-win, because by being able to celebrate their works and in many cases introduce them to audiences who may not have known about them before, we’re adding to their creative legacies.”

Creative indeed.

Not only was the sun shining on the Irvine Bowl, the evening also threw a spotlight on the new Terra restaurant, which is phenomenal. 

“I saw this hidden treasure and I fell in love with it and I said I have to do something to show this magnificent piece of art in the City. [We looked around for historic items only] to find we had this beautiful, magnificent artwork just sitting and hidden [right here]. And I am so happy to bring it out and show it,” said Mo Honarkar. “And that’s my gift to the city.”

the 2018 terra

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The extraordinary new Terra restaurant is a phenomenal feast for the senses 

“Dora [Wexell Orgill] is part of the team, so is my daughter Hasty, so is Mark [Orgill], and you know I couldn’t be successful without a good team. I am very appreciative of them,” Honarkar added.

The juried Festival of Arts features 140 artists who work in a spectrum of art mediums. Plus guests enjoy a chockfull menu of art workshops, classes, concerts, and special events at the Festival.

The Pageant of the Masters runs nightly at 8:30 p.m. from July 7 to September 1. Advance tickets are $15 to $260. Tickets sell fast so it’s best to get them early.

The Pageant is located on the Festival of Arts grounds, 650 Laguna Canyon Road. For information and tickets visit www.LagunaFestivalofArts.org or call (949) 494-1145 or (800) 487-3378.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Lynette Brasfield, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

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