The Tableaux Vivants Festival
While it is commonly known that art imitates life, the Tableaux Vivants or Living Pictures invert the cliché. Since 1933, Laguna Beach in California has hosted a festival of living art, the Pageant of the Masters. The pageant features tableaus vivants which are a theatrical re-creation of the world's great art masterpieces on various stages using live actors painted into the backgrounds.
The 90-minute pageant is held in an outdoor amphitheater. Professional orchestra, original score, live narration, intricate sets, sophisticated lighting, expert staff, and hundreds of dedicated volunteers have won recognition for the Pageant as the best presentation of its kind.
The theme of this year’s (2002) pageant is “Heroes and Heroines”. It pays tribute to past and present heroes. The theme was chosen by pageant director Diane Challis before September 11th, however in the wake of those tragic events, she’s even more aware of the added resonance of the term of “heroic”. Challis is now in her sixth year at the helm of the world’s premier presentation of Tableaux Vivants
The selection of artwork for this year’s theme ranges from the periods of Ancient Greece to today’s heroes. Hercules, Joan of Arc, Lancelot, Jesus Christ, Superman and firefighters are among the numerous heroes and heroines that inspired the 43 living pictures of this year’s performance.
Each year, more than 600 unique and talented professional performers and volunteers – musicians, cast members, costume, prop and set designers, backstage dressers, make-up artists, technicians and refreshment servers participate in this unique enterprise. Among them, some 500 are volunteers and contribute more than 60,000 hours to the enterprise.
All cast members are volunteers and some have been inspired to contribute by their parents and grandparents who participated or still participate in this non-profit operation. Some children take part in some of the living pictures. They work one week on, one week off.
The theater is located at the Irvine Bowl Park in Laguna Beach. Its capacity is 2,600 spectators and is full during most of the nights of the festival, which runs from July 7 until August 31. An average of 250,000 visitors come each year.
To create such a spectacle, more than 200 feet (61 meters) of Velcro is used for fasteners in the costumes and on average, each costume requires three yards (2.8 meters) of unbleached muslin. Hundreds of gallons (1 gallon= 3.8 liters) of theater paint are used for the make-up. More than 150 pounds (68 kilos) and 300 pounds (136 kilos) of plaster for wigs, mustaches, beards and masks. Countless gallons of latex and neoprene are also used.
For the construction of the sets, polystyrene is carved into statues and other forms, more that 12,000 linear feet (3,660 meters) of lumber was used to build all the sets for the show and 100 gallons (380 liters) of top grade paint was used.
The Laguna Festival of Arts also features an exhibition of the work of local artists. Visitors can stroll through the alleys of the open-air exhibition to discover, admire and buy artwork. They can also listen to live music or get ready to attend the legendary spectacle of the Pageant of the Masters.
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