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By Amanda Huffman
On July 8, the lights will go up on the stage of Laguna Beach’s Irvine Bowl, illuminating the living pictures of the Pageant of the Masters.
The pageant recreates classical and contemporary pieces of art and casts community members from across Orange County as statues and painted figures. The 90-minute show is accompanied by a musical score and live narration.
Each night, volunteers spend hours readying each cast member for their role. The first step is the makeup, which is applied to give the appearance of paint strokes or, as in the case of San Clemente resident Valerie Hill, of stone.
Hill has participated in the Pageant since 1988 when she saw an ad in a newsletter. This year Hill is cast as a statue of Esther Hobart Morris in the Capitol Hall Statuary piece.
“Basically you’re cast because of your dimensions,” she said. “They take a lot of different kinds of measurements. But sometimes you just look like the role.”
Dana Point resident Gary Tovey joins her as a statue, portraying George Washington. Up to three coats of white makeup are applied to his face to prepare him for the role.
“A few years ago my daughter did Pageant of the Masters, and she wanted me to try it out,” he said.
Richard Casazza of San Juan Capistrano was also introduced to the event through family two years before.
“I came down with my daughter, but I was the one who got called back,” he said.
Cast as a statue of Chief Washakie, Casazza also receives full facial makeup, though in bronze instead of white.
Makeup is followed by hairpieces and wardrobe. These, too, are painted and are incredibly stiff—cast members have to carefully move without disturbing the hours of work put into each piece.
Alan Perlmutter knows of this work firsthand. A volunteer in wardrobe, the Dana Point resident helps dress each cast member before they head onstage.
“I make sure they leave here ready to be inside the frame,” Perlmutter said.
Pageant of the Masters achieves something most parents wish they could—getting children to stand still in their performance.
“Half of our volunteers are children,” Perlmutter said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for them.”
Each night they receive full makeup and costume, and then they stand frozen on the stage as hundreds of audience members watch. They tackle their roles with all the seriousness of their adult counterparts.
Even with the need for professionalism, there’s still room for enjoyment for participants.
“You know what I love is when friends and family come to watch,” Casazza said. “I’ll give them a backstage tour—I love being able to do that.”
The Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters is held in Laguna Beach and will run from July 8 to Aug. 31. Pageant of the Masters will be held nightly, starting at 8:30 p.m. and the art show will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. General weekday admission is $7, and seniors and students tickets are $4. Weekend admission is $10 and $6 for students and seniors. Children 12 and under, military members and Laguna Beach residents are free.