It’s No Mystery, Volunteers Keep the Pageant Going

Three-time volunteer Luke Pacheco is among the cast in the Pageant of the Masters' "The Night Watch” scene.
Three-time volunteer Luke Pacheco is among the cast in the Pageant of the Masters’ “The Night Watch” scene.

By Loreen Berlin, Special to the Independent

The annual Pageant of the Masters production lures its audience from great distances, but its volunteer cast members generally are from close to home.

They include Luke Pacheco, 12, of Laguna Beach, in his third consecutive year in the summer show that opens July 6 and which was previewed for the media this past Monday, June 2.

This year, Luke will hold a pose in, “The Night Watch,” by painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, one of the show’s many living pictures or tableaux vivants, where costumed actors pose in theatrically lit scenes. The town’s early plein aire painters staged the first Depression-era production to promote their art. Today, the art exhibition and show has become the town’s biggest tourist draw.

“The audience will learn something this year,” promised pageant technical director Richard Hill, noting that the show’s theme, “The Art Detective,” is echoed in the recent discovery of a cache of artwork stolen by the Nazis and the “Monuments Men” film about soldiers racing to protect the destruction of Nazi-looted art.

Mounting the show takes more than 500 volunteers, both onstage and behind-the-scenes, Pageant director Diane Challis Davy said. “We wouldn’t have a show without our volunteers and they have so much fun backstage, volunteers return year after year.”

Proving that point is three-year veteran Luke, who is following a family tradition. His sister Ava and father, Richard Pacheco, have also been cast in the production.

Luke likes volunteering because he meets new people and experiences a creative process.

So far, his favorite role was in last year’s “Horse in Motion.” Because the scene was dramatized above the stage, it was less crowded, he said. His first role as a chess piece proved the best costume, though, with a tall hat and black and white makeup.

Casting is open to anyone who can stand still for 90 seconds, can commit to 30 evenings over the show’s two month run, and has appropriate measurements for the art pieces under consideration.

While waiting for his turn onstage, Luke plays card and board games with his newly made friends. He sees himself continuing to volunteer through high school. “I like doing this,” he said.

Luke’s mother, Ellen, said, “I feel Luke’s time volunteering for the pageant has increased his sense of responsibility; by volunteering, he knows what it means to make and keep a commitment and he knows the importance of being on time, to do his best, and be proud of the results,” she said.

“Luke takes holding still for the 90 seconds very seriously and on a larger level he is learning his responsibility to help in the well-being of the Laguna Beach community,” she said. “As parents, we love that both of our kids want to be a part of the show and they anxiously wait to see if they will be selected each year.”

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Loreen Berlin may be reached at [email protected]

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