There will be an abundance of “local color” on display in next summer’s “Under the Sun,” the highly-anticipated 2018 Pageant of the Masters. This world-famous theatrical celebration of great art recreated in tableaux vivants – “living pictures” – will be celebrating the 85th anniversary of “living pictures” presented as part of Laguna Beach’s Festival of Arts.
The production that began as a publicity gimmick for the second Festival of Arts in 1933 quickly grew into a summer tradition that now attracts over 140,000 patrons every summer. At its helm is Pageant producer-director Diane Challis Davy, once again summoning her creative energies and inspiring her talented team of theatrical artists as they breathe life into this one-of-a-kind entertainment that presents spectacular stage illusions with original, live music by the Pageant orchestra and informative and engaging narration also performed live each night under the stars.
“Under the Sun” will be Challis Davy’s 23rd Pageant as director. She and veteran Pageant scriptwriter Dan Duling were working on ideas for the 2018 production even before last summer’s “The Grand Tour” concluded its crowd-pleasing run. Challis Davy is notorious for creating summer’s shows that are dramatically different from previous years. 2018 will be no different; she is planning on many unexpected surprises for the audiences.
Asked about her inspiration for choosing the theme, Challis Davy recalled, “I was driving east on Crown Valley one spring evening last year, watching the changing light on the foothills of Saddleback mountain, when I thought, Ah-ha! ‘Under the Sun!’ The phrase is from Ecclesiastes, and I think it serves us very well. I wanted the theme to express an awareness and appreciation of the beauty of nature, to focus on artists who choose to paint in the ‘open air’ and to acknowledge how French impressionism influenced artists around the world to record their own personal reflections.”
Duling, who researches and writes the narration (performed each night by Richard Doyle), noted another consideration, “We’re taking a cue from two anniversaries next summer: the 100th anniversary of the Laguna Art Museum, and the 85th anniversary of ‘living pictures’ at the Festival of Arts. So, local history and Pageant traditions will get special attention.”
“Two years ago,” Challis Davy added, “I received an invitation from the museum’s director Malcolm Warner to acknowledge the museum’s anniversary in 2018. I had no hesitation in saying ‘Of Course!’ And I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to share a selection of masterworks by artists associated with lovely Laguna Beach.”
In the early years of the 20th century, many natural landscapes attracted artists to Southern California: the Pacific Ocean, mountains, deserts. But more than anything, it was “the light.” A new generation of impressionists and plein air painters set up their easels outdoors and reveled in the natural beauty to be found as far as the eye could see, especially here in the tiny artists’ colony of Laguna Beach. “Under the Sun” will include works by many of Laguna’s early masters: Anna Hills, William Griffith, Phil Dike, Guy Rose, Julia Bracken Wendt, and Joseph Kleitsch, one of Challis Davy’s favorites. “Joseph Kleitsch was an extraordinary artist in Southern California in the early 20th century,” she stated. “And, like many Laguna painters, he also happened to be an immigrant.”
Challis Davy also said she’s looking forward to paying tribute to Roger Kuntz, another modern master with strong local connections whose works were featured in a memorable retrospective at the Laguna Art Museum a few years back.
Included in Challis Davy’s plans for next summer is a healthy sense of theatrical fun. “We may even present more than one ‘builder’!” she said, referring to those moments when they open up the curtains and show how a living picture is put together. “Builders have been audience favorites since they were first included in the 1966 Pageant.”
As always, Challis Davy and her staff realize the Pageant wouldn’t be possible without their volunteers who return year after year to take part. Challis Davy offered one final thought before getting back to work on plans for the 2018 Pageant. “I’ll never get tired of working and creating in this beautiful amphitheater, on the edge of the greenbelt of oaks and sycamores with its owls, hawks, jays, hummingbirds and an elusive roadrunner.”
Tickets for “Under the Sun” on Sale December 1, 2017