The Pageant of the Masters at the Festival of the Arts of Laguna Beach has been an unparalleled, gobsmacking event for more than 80 years. Every costumer should at least see it, if not actually participate in it. It’s held at the Festival of the Arts of Laguna Beach each summer, for two months.
What is it? It’s living art; tableaux vivant of famous pieces of art brought to life by talented costumers, make up artists and lighting designers (costumers, lighting designers are your best friends, no?). The work of hundreds of volunteers is represented in this show. It so moved me when I saw it that it inspired my Worldcon 1989 masquerade costume “Music Box”. While backstage, I met a gentleman who, as a child, had been painted gold and hoisted up to fly in as a cherub. I was flattered that he had recognized what I was doing immediately and had come over to chat about a time he remembered fondly. It remains a highlight of my costuming career.
Theater is about creating a world within a finite space. It requires a clear vision of that world to be successful and there are many ways to an end. It’s up to the director to choose. Here, the world is a given: It’s a specific piece of art that anyone can look up. Here, the execution is everything, and since the world is a documented space already, it serves to put the spotlight on the maker skills of the team. It’s a breathtaking display of the art of the costumer, set designer/builders and lighting designer. It is there for no other reason that to promote beauty.
Paint, latex, body paint, fabric, millinery, and more all come together to recreate these pieces of art. Seeing it was life-changing for me, and how I approached my costuming. Cosplayers may find that they find they feel a sort of kinship with this show, as they are also creating costume from a pre-existing, well loved, piece of art. There is a lot to here to inspire.
While there, do not forget to peruse the art show. Some of the best art from all over California is there, and it is fabulous.