Freaky Pageant Transforms Master Paintings Into Living Tableaux with Ordinary People

Neil Patrick Harris has gone to the event, which sees 250,000 visitors annually.

Models pose
Models pose "living picture," Hearst Castle Pool Sculptures, during annual festival The Pageant of the Masters at Laguna Beach. Photo credit JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images.
Diane Arnett, left, Allegra Patterson and Alexandra Hack strike a pose in the tableaux vivants or "living pictures" during Media Night for the Pageant of the Masters/Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach. //ADDITIONAL INFO: lagunafestivals.0703 -06/01/09 - Photo by Rose Palmisano / The Orange County Register - This is the Working Media Night for the Pageant of the Masters/Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach.

The Masters/Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach.
Photo: via foapom.com.

For eight weeks every summer, the Pageant of the Masters turns popular paintings and sculptures into extravagant stage re-enactments at the Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach, California.

At the photographic level, the company’s imitations are hauntingly accurate; but if a video sample of their “living pictures” is any indication of how the performance is actually experienced, well, let’s just say it starts getting weird. Fast.

We’ll let you decide for yourself:

The several hundreds of hands needed for the 90-second performance are almost entirely comprised of volunteers, save a small staff of paid directors and coordinators. Just this year, some 500 volunteers were selected from a pool of 1,200 hopefuls. Suffice it to say, local residents take this tradition seriously.

The first show was held in 1933. Artist Lolita Perine convinced a group of residents to dress in costume and sit behind an oversized frame. The company’s initial success merited its formal inclusion into the Festival in subsequent years.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the festival attracts an estimated 250,000 visitors annually, even drawing celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris. This year’s theme is “The Pursuit of Happiness.”

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The Masters/Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach.
Photo: via foapom.com.

“Manet’s Musici Tuileries” at the Pageant of the Masters.

“Manet’s Musici Tuileries” at the Pageant of the Masters.
Photo: via foapom.com.

Shows are held until August 31, and admission ranges from $15 to $250.


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