2013 Pageant to Celebrate 80 Years of Living Pictures at The Festival of Arts
LAGUNA BEACH, CA – Long before the curtain fell on last summer’s enormously popular production, The Genius, Diane Challis Davy, director of the Pageant of the Masters, was busily formulating her ideas for 2013’s celebration of art in “living pictures” – tableaux vivants – entitled THE BIG PICTURE. She’s excited that next summer will mark the 80th anniversary of living pictures being presented at the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach. But Challis Davy is also planning a tribute to the modern art of motion pictures and the ways in which the masterpieces of art history have inspired and informed the movies.
When asked where she found her inspiration for the 2013 theme, Challis Davy laughed and replied, “In the bathtub!” She then went on to explain this was a reference to Busby Berkeley, the legendary Hollywood director famous for his extravagant and brilliantly-choreographed musical numbers in the 1930s. Berkeley, it seems, once told a reporter that his best ideas came to him while in the tub.
Challis Davy’s playful comment is offset by the seriousness of her continuing devotion to the daunting logistics of putting on the Pageant. With its two casts of hundreds of volunteers, orchestra, narrator and crew of backstage artists and technicians, the Pageant of the Masters is every bit as complex as big-budget movie shoot, with the biggest difference being that a movie only has to get a shot right once, while the Pageant hits the stage live every night for nearly two months!
Challis Davy is quick to point out that masterpieces are once again included in the “coming attractions” the 2013 Pageant. “We’ll have Vermeer, Gainsborough, Michelangelo, Gerome, Seurat, Rodin, Norman Rockwell. Designers for both stage and screen look to paintings and sculpture for historical information and inspiration. I thought it would be a new twist for the Pageant to take a look back at the work of the Masters that inspired great works of cinema.”
As examples, THE BIG PICTURE will showcase how the genius of Michelangelo found expression in “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” how Thomas Gainsborough’s portraits influenced Stanley Kubrick, and how the works of Jean-Leon Gerome can be seen in films by directors like David Lean and Ridley Scott. And “the Master of Suspense,” Alfred Hitchcock, will also merit special attention.
But, Challis Davy’s enthusiasm for the theme extends beyond film references. “What are movies but a series of still pictures?” she mused. “The Pageant is a series of still (but living) pictures. That seemed like an interesting connection to consider.”
Longtime Pageant scriptwriter Dan Duling concurred. “The Pageant’s combination of art and theater alters the way we look at art. In a way tableaux vivants were the original ‘freeze frames.’ And looking at masterpieces through the viewfinder of motion pictures provides fascinating food for thought.”
When asked if there were any selections for the upcoming show that she’d always wanted to produce, Challis Davy cited the chance to incorporate memorable music from the movies – by Bernard Hermann, Alex North and other composers – and the chance to recreate a fresco by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel. On a lighter note, she said she’s looking forward to staging “a loving tribute to the Chicago Art Institute, courtesy of director John Hughes and his film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Of course, THE BIG PICTURE has a secondary focus, the 80th anniversary of “living connections with Hollywood celebrities. And, of course, the show will once again conclude with its traditional finale, Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” In 1936, that truly became “the big picture” that put the Pageant on the national map.
Everyone associated with the production understands the Pageant wouldn’t be possible without that spirit of volunteer dedication. As Challis Davy acknowledges, their dedication and loyalty are the remarkable engines that sustain the Pageant. “I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who love the hard work it takes to produce a very elaborate show,” she said. “I get inspiration from the scriptwriter, staff, composers, and from the scores of enthusiastic research volunteers who come up with great suggestions!”
The Pageant of the Masters will be performed nightly from Sunday, July 7 – Saturday, August 31, 2013. Tickets for THE BIG PICTURE are now on sale. Tickets start at $15 and can be purchased online. For further information, call 949-497-6852, or toll free 800-487-3378.
For a full list of artwork being performed in this year’s production, visit the Pageant Program.