The Art of the Grand Tour

By Wendy Lemlin

Laguna Beach’s Pageant of The Masters and Festival of the Arts is a summertime tradition

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On a breezy summer evening in Laguna Beach, stars twinkle above 2,600 attentive guests seated in the outdoor Irvine Bowl amphitheater. The live orchestra begins to play while the baritone-voiced narrator introduces the next work of art. The rapt audience breaks into applause as the stage curtain opens on a life sized replica Of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Annunciation. But wait—did Mary move slightly? Did the angel just blink?

At the Pageant of the Masters, art will come alive to a packed audience every night from July 7-August 31

At the Pageant of the Masters, art will come alive to a packed audience every night from July 7-August 31


An actor in makeup and costume for the depiction of Annie Oakley

An actor in makeup and costume for the depiction of Annie Oakley

Call it tableaux vivant, living pictures, or just plain magic, the Pageant of the Masters, brings art to life as actors are transformed into re-creations of well-known paintings, sculptures, and figurines. The original art pieces are painstakingly copied on intricate sets with well-hidden stands, footholds, and handles supporting the cast members, who, after meticulous make-up and costume sessions, are placed in the artwork. Then, as the curtain rises, each actor holds a pose, motionless, unbreathing, for at least 90 seconds. With a patented lighting system that reduces the three dimensional down to the appearance of two dimensions, the effect is spellbinding, and has made the Pageant of the Masters, running July 7-August 31, 2017, a favorite component of the venerable Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts for the past 84 years.

The actor depicting Annie Oakley in a replicated poster from Buffalo Bill's wild West Show

A poster from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show will be replicated in life size with the actor shown above

This year’s theme, The Grand Tour, emulates the custom of high society members of the 17th, 18th , and 19th centuries to indulge in experiencing the world’s great art firsthand by embarking on “the grand tour” to the cultural centers of Europe and beyond. Setting out on pilgrimages by land and sea, those early travelers often risked life and limb to stand in the presence of masterpieces. Luckily, all we have to do is settle comfortably in chairs under a starlit summer sky and enjoy the dramatic recreation of significant art pieces dating from the 1400s to the present day.

Sharing the newly renovated $10.5 million facility in Laguna Canyon with the Pageant of the Masters’ Irvine Bowl is the Festival of the Arts, celebrating its 85th anniversary this year. A juried exhibition of 140 of Orange County’s most renowned artists working in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry and furniture, the Festival of the Arts opens on July 5th and runs until August 31 and is included in the admission for the Pageant of the Masters. Along with the art exhibits, guests can take part in numerous art workshops and enjoy special events, including several music series, fashion shows, art lectures, kids’ activities, and much more.  There are three onsite dining options, or you can plan your visit like a local: come early and bring a picnic, grab a table in the Festival of the Arts courtyard, uncork a bottle of wine or buy a glass at the wine bar, and enjoy some live jazz or other music while you relish your dinner al fresco. Then, wander around the art exhibits before heading into the Irvine Bowl for the show.

Festival of Arts Celebrity Benefit Concert and Pageant

More tips:

1) bring binoculars—it’s fun to try to catch an actor blinking, breathing, or moving in some way.

2) It can get cool at night in the amphitheater, so a blanket, which you can either wrap around yourself or sit on for extra cushioning, is also recommended.

3)Although the seats are comfortable, they aren’t padded, so some Pageant of the Masters veterans recommend bringing seat cushions.

All of these can also be rented at the venue.

Ticket prices for Pageant of the Masters range from $15-$178 and include admission to the Festival of the Arts.  Tickets for the Festival of the Arts are $8-$12, with free admission for Children 12 or under, Military, Laguna Beach Residents and Festival of Arts Members.

For everything you need to know about the festival, click here

.Festival of Arts
Pageant of the Masters

650 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

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