Arguably one of the most unique events in the world, the Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters in Orange County presents tableaux vivants, 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.
Always sold out several months in advance, 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 of artistic endeavors, the Pageant of the Masters was born out of necessity; in the case of the pageant, it was as a reaction to hard times brought on by the Great Depression. When that economic crisis hit in 1929, the community of Laguna Beach was greatly affected, dependent as its economy was on tourism and vacationers’ dollars. In an effort to attract not just visitors to the area but visitors that would buy art from the community of local artists, a Festival of Arts was proposed, and one of the many ideas floated to be part of it was the staging of “living pictures.”
More than three-quarters of a century later, the spectacle has 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, always closes the show.