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IMG_4778A legacy was born right here in Orange County 80 years ago. Pageant of the Masters, or tableaux vivants (living pictures), has since developed into a sensation known the world over, with real people recreating art masterpieces as a narrator provides the story and a live orchestra performs. Held at the Festival of Arts grounds in Laguna Beach, this year’s Pageant, themed “The Big Picture,” recreated classic movie themes using 268 cast members (the cast members alternate weeks). But, more about that later.

The Pageant is part of the Festival of Arts, which, believe it or not, is 81 years old this year, starting a year before the Pageant. Beginning with a few artists hanging their paintings on fences and trees, the Festival has grown into a juried museum-quality exhibition that features works of art from 140 talented artists. This year’s Festival of Arts was fabulous, with painters, sculptors, jewelers, ceramists, photographers, woodcutters and more showcasing their talents (see photos of some of the artists’ work). I attended in late August (the Pageant and Festival begins in early July and runs for 56 consecutive nights). The evening, dubbed the Acura/KOST Celebrity Event, Concert and Pageant, is always star-studded, with celebrities, including Pageant host Heather Locklear, attending this year. I spotted Joe Mantegna and his Criminal Minds cast, including Matthew Gray Gubler, Shemar Moore, A.J. Cook, Kirsten Vangsness, and Jeanne Tipplehorn, as well as Deidre Hall (Days of Our Lives), Paul Sorvino (Law and Order), Rena Sofer (The Bold and the Beautiful), Al Joyner (U.S. Olympics gold medal winner), Jo Frost (Supernanny), actors Dorian Harewood and Iva Franks, and David Pack, founder of the legendary rock band Ambrosia and Grammy-winning record producer, solo artist and music director.

Multiple Grammy winner and two-time Academy Award nominee James Ingram entertained earlier in the evening on the Festival’s Center Stage, as guests gathered on the lawn for his engaging performance. Ingram sang many of his hits, including “One Hundred Ways,” “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”, “Yah Mo B There,” “Baby, Come to Me,” and “Somewhere Out There.” A 2014 Acura RLX, valued at $54,450, was the event’s opportunity prize, with the winning ticket going to a lucky lady from San Diego.

Once seated in the 2,600-seat Irvine Bowl (sold-out, I might add) for the Pageant of the Masters, Locklear and Festival of Arts Board President Fred Sattler welcomed everyone, lights were lowered, and it was show time. With the Pageant celebrating the history of motion pictures, as well as the ways in which art masterpieces have inspired or informed the movies, some of the artists’ work re-created onstage included Michelangelo, Jan Vermeer, Richard Gainsborough, Frederic Remington, Norman Rockwell, Edward Hopper, Georges Seurat, and the famous Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” always the Pageant finale. Tributes to great actors and filmmakers featured Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, and John Hughes. And, lest we forget, Walt Disney was featured with Mickey in a life-size bronze by Rick Terry titled “Storytellers.” Harold Lloyd’s “Safety Last” silent motion picture still from 1923, with a scene of Lloyd dangling precariously from a clock on the side of a building, was featured (I’m standing in front of the image at the Pageant), and it was one of my favorites.

Kudos to Pageant Director/Producer Diane Challis Davy, orchestra conductor John Elg, scriptwriter Dan Duling, narrator Richard Doyle, and the hundreds of cast members and volunteers! It was a fun, whimsical and heartwarming evening. Challis Davy told me that next year’s theme will be The Art Detective. Now, that theme has a lot of possibilities…

Selected photos by Festival of Arts