Pageant of the Masters at Laguna Beach, CA

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.

One of the photos from The Pageant of the Masters web site

One of the photos from The Pageant of the Masters web site

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.

Worldcon 1983 masquerade entry.  Master Division  "Most Beautiful"

Worldcon 1983 masquerade entry. Master Division “Most Beautiful” Photo Credit: Linda Sweeting

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.




2 Replies to “Pageant of the Masters at Laguna Beach, CA”

  1. Dale S.

    Hello, Wendy!

    I think I was that “golden cherub” person you referred to in your post on the Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters.
    Sorry that it took me four years to come across your website.

    Here’s what I recall about our encounter, let me know if it matches your memory:

    It was, as I remember, at a CostumeCon sometime in the 1990’s – I don’t recall exactly which, rather than at the WorldCon. (I did see your performance at the ’89 WorldCon.) You had graciously brought your “Music Box” costume for the exhibit display there. You happened to come by as I was admiring it, and I may have complemented you on it. It came to my mind that there was a similarity to the artistry of the Pageant’s living statues, and I asked you if you had ever seen the Laguna Beach show.

    You replied that it was a favorite of yours, and we may have discussed it a brief while. I told you how I had been a cast member years before, as solid gold cherub, in a statuary group with several gold maidens, and originally made for French kings. I might have mentioned that they shaved my entire body, from my eyebrows on down, to remove any peach-fuzz hair, to make sure the statue could look smooth & shiny.

    When I said that I had to be a nude cherub, you told me that it was considered to be a honor to be chosen for such an experience — something which made my day, too!

    My appearance then: I was a typical Science Fiction geek, size XL, bearded, with strawberry blonde hair and suspenders.

    (I’m not a costumer myself, but often traveled with my costumer friend to WorldCons and CostumeCons. I love the SF cons, the masquerades, and things that remind me of my experience in the Tableau Vivant at Laguna.)

    Anyway, if this sounds that I was the person you chatted with back in the day, please let me know. The memory of our brief meeting remains a treasure, as does being in the Pageant and watching great creativity and fine craftsmanship in the theater arts, such as your work. I’m honored that it may have meant something to you, too.

    Dale S.

    • admin Post author

      Yep! Sounds like we have a match! I had been so impressed with the Pageant that my sister had taken me to, that I had to try my hand at it, and then I bumped into you! Sadly only the internal parts of the costume remain. Thank you again for your kind words. As you can tell, that meeting was also a treasure for me.


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