Laguna Observed


 Reclaiming a Pageant Ritual 

Every year I’m taken by surprise that it’s that time of year again. This refers to any time of year commonly referred to as “that time of year,” like Christmas and the first day of school. 

The time of year I refer to now is the Pageant of the Masters time. This year, the Pageant’s theme is “Only Make Believe”.  The living pictures will reference ancient and modern fairytales, superheroes and strange mythical creatures. Science fiction will be presented. “There’ll be no shortage of fun and fantasy for the whole family as ‘Only Make Believe’ leaves ordinary life behind to reveal the wonders of artistic imaginations unleashed,” says an announcement.

I think this sounds totally fab. What this means is there will be plenty of ancient and modern superheroes and strange mythical creatures. If this doesn’t sound like one made for the ritual of the summer family outing, I don’t know what does.

 Certainly going to the Pageant was part of our summer ritual when I was growing up and my parents still had some say in the matter.  We came to Laguna every summer for a month, and the Pageant loomed large from the moment the car was unpacked. It loomed large for my parents and three younger sisters. I never went. By that time I was with a boyfriend, and we were much too cool to bother with such silliness.  I’m not sure what my brothers offered up as excuses. It didn’t matter. Come Christmas my parents dragged us all to The Messiah at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to teach us a lesson.

I never took my own children to the Pageant. I believe my parents did a few times. I never took then to Disneyland either. Again my parents rushed in to do the honor.  I love my parents for this. My children do, too.  But I digress.

Up until three years ago, I still hadn’t attended. That is a lot of missed pageants, since they started in 1933. I remained unconvinced it was really worthy of my very serious attention, my very tight amount of free time.  I can be pointlessly obtuse.

Anyway, three years ago I finally attended. A friend had tickets.  She goaded me into attending. We had dinner first, which wins me over every time. And I loved it.  I was totally impressed. I oooed and ahhhed at the incredible tableaux. I laughed at the very funny commentary. I’ve wanted to go again ever since. But I never think of it until now in May. Tickets went on sale last December. Who is able to think ahead to Summer Madness whilst in the middle of Santa and his reindeers?  I wouldn’t have them to a dinner party, so distrustful am I of such organizational skills. But I can’t help admiring them in a grudging kind of way. They have their tickets all sewn up. Their summer is picture perfect already. Not mine.

Diane Challis Davy has directed the Pageant for 16 years.  I don’t know her, but I’m clapping for her.  She promises this year will be extraordinary, or words to that effect.  So has scriptwriter Dan Duling. That is another area in which I have been remiss.  It just never occurred to me there was one person in charge, sweating the details while I slept.  And another one was actually writing the script.  I do know about the volunteers who are in the tableaux themselves. A very good friend did it every year for years, and pronounced the experience “a hoot”! These people I would have to a dinner party, even though they too were embroiled in Pageant Madness while decorating their Christmas trees.

Anyway, I’m rushing to the box office. Maybe someone called in sick.

Ruth Yunker is the author of “Me, Myself And Paris,” which can be purchased on Amazon and Kindle.

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