Bringing art to life is the goal of Laguna Beach, California’s annual Pageant of the Masters. With the 2019 season, it’s a mission that’s been met 86 years in a row. Each July and August, 500 volunteers convene for seven nightly performances (8:30 p.m.) where masterpieces, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper are recreated via tableaux vivants, or living pictures.
Not only are there actors stepping into said masterpieces, be they recreations of classical or contemporary works of art, but performances are unique, with original live music from the Pageant Orchestra and live narration from Richard Doyle. Each year brings with it a new theme with surprises tucked inside each scene.
The theme of this year’s pageant is The Time Machine, which takes audiences “around the globe and into the past, present and future in search of great art and amazing stories.” In a press release earlier this month, Pageant of the Masters described The Time Machine as “a show that journeys through time and space, audiences can look forward to tributes to breakthroughs in both art and science. Highlights include an homage to American sculptor Malvina Hoffman for her groundbreaking anthropological exhibit at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History in 1933 as well as the 1913 Armory Show in New York which marked the dawn of Modernism in America.”
Parentology had the opportunity to speak with 15-year-old Ian McKernan about his experiences with Pageant of Masters. For McKernan, the summer performances are a rite of passage that began when his father was a child. Today, McKernan and his sister Kate carry on this inspirational tradition. They create, as McKernan terms it, “Magic.”
Tell us about the first time you saw Pageant of the Masters.
My dad, who’d seen it since he was a kid, always talked about it. Five years ago, my sister Kate saw an ad in the newspaper looking for volunteers. She wanted to try out, but I was young and too scared.
The first time I saw a Pageant, though, was during my Kate’s first performance. Before that, we’d never seen the Pageant together as a family. It was a magical experience.
Two years later, Kate convinced me to try out. I did and was cast. I’ve been performing with her ever since. This is my third year.
Describe what it’s like backstage.
We arrive at call-time and get into our base costume. Then we go into makeup, which, depending on the scene you’re in, can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. There’s almost always time to play cards while waiting for your scene to come up.
Before loading in, we get our headpiece put on. These are usually canvas and emulate hair. We’re then helped into the set and positioned. They’ll compare to the art we’re re-enacting and say, “Oh, you should have your hand up a little bit, you should put your elbow down; look over there.”
Onstage, we hold in position from 45 to 90 seconds at most.
Once offstage, we remove makeup, return wardrobe and we’re done.
Some of the positions look like they’d be excruciating to hold.
They have us rest as much as possible, so we’re not holding an awkward position all that long. The set is padded, too, so it’s pretty comfortable. You can breathe, blink, all those things.
What do you love most about participating in the Pageant of the Arts?
The people. Everyone is so nice, so. And it’s a great crowd. And then you get to spend a lot of time playing like, card games and other things. And it’s just a lot of fun. It’s, when I talk about how long it is every night, and then you do it like a week on, week off. Everybody’s like oh, how’d he do that? It just great hanging out with friends, most of time.
What have you learned about art through your Pageant of the Arts experiences?
That art can take many different forms: writing, paintings, movie posters, music… They’re all part of the Pageant, which is a form of art in itself.
To learn more about Pageant of the Masters visit www.LagunaFestivalofArts.org.