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Pageant of the Masters History

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by cdub260, Sep 2, 2008.

  1. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    Southern California
    The Pageant of the Masters just completed its 75th. season, selling out all 53 performances of its presentation of living pictures.

    The Pageant began in 1933 as an advertising gimmick used to draw people to Laguna Beach, CA for the second annual Festival of Arts, a local organization founded in 1932 to support the arts in and around Laguna Beach. While the Pageant remains a part of the Festival of Arts, in the 75 years since its inclusion in the festival, it has gone from the side show to the main event, regularly filling the 2600 seat Irvine Bowl every night from early July to late August.

    Over the course of its life the show has had a grand total of 5 directors, beginning with Lolita Perine in 1933. The second director, Roy Ropp was largely responsible for the evolution of the show from a crude and amateurish presentation of living pictures to a professional quality stage show. Over the next several decades the Pageants techniques were refined under the leadership of Don Williamson and Glen Etchison who was director from 1977 through 1995. Both had the benefit of Technical Director, Carl Callaway's expertise in running the technical operations at the Pageant. Unfortunately, Carl died of a heart attack in 1990, 2 days after the show closed after 27 years as Technical Director. Our current director, Dianne Challis-Davy has held the Director's position since the fall of 1995. Three of our five Directors are still living.

    The techniques we use for the Pageant have evolved quite a bit over the last 75 years. Several years ago, one of our front office staff came across a film of the Pageant from the 1950's. Seeing this film was a real eye opener for most of us working back stage as to exactly how much better we've gotten at making a 3 dimensional set look like a 2 dimensional painting. This is an area where advances in dimming technology have been key factors, as the basic techniques we use really haven't changed that much in the last 60 years. Increased use of steel and polystyrene foam in our set construction have also allowed us to reproduce pieces of artwork that would have been impossible for us when that film was made.

    Where in the early days of the Pageant of the Masters, the show was little more than a roadside tourist trap, today it is a multi-million dollar production with several hundred volunteers filling positions ranging from cast to various backstage positions in the Costume, Make-up, and Headpiece departments. Without these volunteers, there would be no Pageant. The Festival of Arts employs 35 people on a year round basis. You would be hard pressed to find a more experienced group than our production staff. Of the 14 full timers and 3 seasonal members of our staff, only 3 of us have held our positions for less than a decade. The rest other 14 have held their positions for 15 to 30 years. During the run of the Festival and the Pageant, our staff expands by several hundred part time, seasonal employees in various different departments, providing summer jobs for many high school and college students.

    People come to Laguna Beach from all over the world to see the Pageant of the Masters, and we are considered the best in the world at what we do. Granted, there aren't that many organizations that produce living pictures, but of the few that do, none that I'm aware of have done it as long as we have, on the scale that we do, or as well as we do. Most have the living pictures as a part of a larger show.

    If anyone else has done anything similar to what we do, I'd love to hear about what you do. Who knows? I just might learn something.

    For more on the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters, check out our website.

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