Pageant Reimagines Make Believe for Summer Crowds

Dave Marceau posing Emily Gruber for “A Confabulation of Dragons,” by Scott Gustafson.

The Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters unveiled samples of their summer fare this week, and by all appearances, a good time should be had by all from July 3 through Aug. 31.

            This year’s Pageant, titled “Only Make Believe,” for its 78th year features tableaux vivants (living pictures) replicating paintings from an international roster of artists.

 “This year, spirits and creatures that only exist in the imagination, fairies, dragons but no vampires, rule the stage,” said director Diane Challis-Davy. Expressing a particular bent toward spooky stories, she has included a favorite, the painting “The Headless Horseman” by John Quidor.

Backstage, David Rhymar, a 39 year pageant veteran, had worked on the horseman for a week and anticipates at least another until finishing the stage-sized canvas. David Cooke, a set painter for six years, replicated a giant dragon on canvas, and sculptor Jean Ashton, a relative newcomer, carved styrofoam mounted on a movable wooden armature, destined to become a dragon as well.

            The Pageant’s new narrator, Richard Doyle, an actor and founding member of the South Coast Repertory Theater, replaces retired Skip Conover.

            Dan Duling, the pageant’s 31-year scriptwriter, is excited about collaborating with artist Sandow Birk on presentation of four tableaux from his “In Smog and Thunder: The War of the Californias” series. “It’s a prime example of good social satire and I like it when we can pay tribute to an artist I admire,” said Duling.

David Talbot posing Haley Collins, at right, for “The Princess” and “Scheherazade.”

 The pageant would not be what it is without its volunteers, supervised by a few backstage staffers who oversee applying make-up, fitting and crafting costumes and sculpting the elaborate head-gear worn by the actors. Staffer Reagan Foy, a costume design graduate from Cal State Long Beach, has designed headgear for four years. “I love it when the volunteers come back year after year; they are my summer family,” she said.

            Alan Perlmutter and his wife Gail Lukowicz-Perlmutter of Dana Point have  volunteered as dresser and make-up artist for the past five years. “We attended countless productions and loved them so much, we wanted to become volunteers,” said Alan, who also had a part in da Vinci’s painting “The Last Supper.”

             A cast half made up of children delights him. “I love being there every night, putting them at ease and making them laugh,” he said.

            The Festival of Arts, which runs concurrently with the pageant, will feature 140 artists exhibiting paintings, sculpture, jewelry, decorative arts, ceramics and multi-media works. Painters Paul Bond and Bruce Burr and ceramicist Susan Wills showed off what visitors can expect to see throughout the summer.

            Wills, a first-time festival exhibitor who lives in Newport, is making ceramic vessels that visually resemble elegant women’s purses. 

            Bond’s paintings are highly representational but in content allegorical and surreal, with narratives based on the artist’s observations and philosophy of life. Burr gives an ironic twist to places and products that have become icons.

            As before, the art displays will be accompanied by special events such as Art, Jazz, Wine & Chocolate, beginning Thursday, July 7, as well children’s and adult art classes and a Beatles tribute band and cooking lesson on Sundays. This season will also bring new attractions such as Art in Motion: Hip Hop to Tango, a dance performance series, also held on Sundays.

The festival’s website guides visitors through all aspects of the festival including events, art classes and special exhibitions.

            Making a comeback is the Festival Runway Fashion extravaganza where artists show off clothing they designed and made from recycled materials. Actress Marlee Matlin will help judge the show, said the festival’s spokeswoman, Sharbie Higuchi.

A silent art auction to benefit the Artist Fund, “Art-to-Go: Go Gold” will run from July 5-Aug. 31.

The Festival of Arts: July 3-Aug.31. (July 3&4 10 a.m.-6 p.m.) daily from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.  Admission $7, Students/seniors $4. Active military& Laguna Beach residents and under 12, free.

Pageant of the Masters: Performed nightly from Thur. July 7-Wed. Aug. 31. Tickets $15+  949-497-6852  or 800-487-3378

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