Calling Wanna-be Statues

By Justin Swanson | LB Indy


Kasey O'Neill, 30, of Aliso Viejo, is in her 16th season volunteering for the Pageant. Her first role was as a hood ornament. Photo by Justin Swanson

Kasey O’Neill, 30, of Aliso Viejo, is in her 16th season volunteering for the Pageant. Her first role was as a hood ornament. Photo by Justin Swanson

Over 1,200 hopeful volunteers from all over Orange County responded to the annual Pageant of the Masters casting call in the past week, vying to play a role in the 80th anniversary tableaux.

As the last prospective volunteer departed, director Diane Challis Davy faces the process of whittling down the cast to 500 volunteers for both backstage help and statue-portrayal. The final number includes a doubling of cast and staff, so as to stagger performance duties during the eight-week run, July 7 through Aug. 31.

“We are particularly looking for tall, slender women for a couple of Erte pieces,” said Challis Davy, a Laguna Niguel resident. “And we always seem to run short on men, so we encourage all types to sign up.”

This year’s theme, “The Big Picture,” pays homage to the modern art of motion pictures.

“We are paying tribute to Hitchcock and Kubrick, and we’re making a connection between the Pageant and Hollywood, the world of Bette Davis and Vincent Price.”

The audition process for each prospect includes full body measurements, which are recorded and set along a picture taken backstage. In effect, participants are chosen based on where they fit, literally speaking.

Returning volunteers are less worried about fitting in. They anticipate renewing bonds forged onstage and behind the scenes.

“You’re seeing old friends, and you’re aging along with them,” reflects Laguna Hills resident Glen Reed, a 22-year statue and in his 16th year as part of the finale “Last Supper” tableaux. “You begin adding to your family. Kids get cast and they keep going.”2 pageant for web DSC00022

“It’s a fun reunion,” agreed Challis Davy. “Everyone’s wishing each other a happy New Year. I’d say about 50 percent have been volunteers before. There’s an excitement about the tableaux.”

Ashley Dillabough, 21, of Laguna Niguel, who has volunteered alternately as a cast member and makeup artist each year since eighth grade, said, “It ends up being my ‘social thing’ for the summer.”

Some volunteers come from as far as Yorba Linda to participate, says 17-year backstage consultant Chuck Remley, of Newport Beach. “People are a part of this and then they move away and are drawn back like a magnet.”

Cast members will soon be notified of their parts as rehearsals begin later this month and last until June. Two to three pieces are practiced each Thursday. Costume fitting and makeup come when performance dates near.

2 pageant for web DSC00024           “The building is slow and there is a lot of technical drawing,” counts Challis Davy. “The painters will start on the backgrounds shortly.”

“It gets easier each year,” said the 40-year makeup supervisor Bettye Murphy of Mission Viejo, explaining that the crew’s efficiency keeps improving. For her part, a makeup template is devised for each statue, so that the artists have a specific plan to follow. Not only are people selected and fit to resemble a statue, they are decorated precisely too.

The costuming process resembles a life-size paint-by-numbers canvas. The well-oiled machine marches on.

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