The Orange County town of Laguna Beach has always had a rich art scene, but its main summer event, the Festival of Arts, Pageant of the Masters, can easily boast of being one of the most unique events in the world.
The Festival of Arts portion of the event largely consists of a summer art show, with exhibits at Laguna Beach galleries and the Laguna Art Museum, as well as live music on weekends. The centerpiece of the event, though—which typically runs from early July until Labor Day—is the lineup of tableaux vivants at the Pageant of the Masters: ultra-detailed recreations of classical and contemporary works of art, with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original works. Accompanying each staging is original, live music performed by an orchestra, as well as the voice of an engaging narrator, filling the audience in on everything from information on the work of art being recreated to details about snafus encountered or discoveries made in the process. From the costumes to the lighting to the narration and overall production, it is a spectacle to impress even longtime theatergoers.
This unforgettable outdoor event is a nice nod to the artistic roots of this well-heeled coastal enclave, which started as an artists’ colony back in the early 1900s. As is often the case with artistic endeavors, the Pageant of the Masters was born out of necessity: During the Great Depression, the Laguna Beach community made an effort to attract not just visitors to the area, but visitors who would buy art from local artists. A Festival of Arts was proposed, including the idea of staging “living pictures.”
Over the following decades, the spectacle evolved into one of the area’s biggest draws of the year—a world-famous, one-of-a-kind living celebration of some of history’s great artworks. Consisting of two acts and over three dozen live recreations, each year has a different theme, though a crowd favorite, The Last Supper, typically closes the show.
Insider tip: Book your tickets as soon as you make plans—seats can sell out fast.