The Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters this year will stage a puppet show scene--the first with moving human figures in the tableaux spectacle's history.
The eight-minute segment re-creating characters from a Sicilian puppet folk classic, "Orlando Furioso," will use 20 dancers and mimes as marionettes portraying Charlemagne-era knights, damsels, wizards and even dragons.
"We know this is a break from our tradition of tableaux-frozen figures," pageant director Glen Eytchison said Friday. "We certainly don't see this as a gimmick. Our movement will be very conservative and faithful to this legendary art genre."
John Rayment, president of the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts Board, which operates the pageant, said: "It's an experiment. It's a way to keep our show competitively fresh."
The rest of the 24-scene program in the pageant's 51st edition--which runs from July 10 to Aug. 30 at Irvine Bowl--will as usual feature humans posing motionless as statues and as characters in such paintings as Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper."
Since 1979, when Eytchison took over as pageant director, he has attempted sprightlier production values in an otherwise fixed tableaux format. He added circus poster tableaux and other more colorful Americana works and made set changes quicker and more mobile.
Last summer, in the "Art of the Tin Toy" tableau, Eytchison used movement for the first time--a row boat that rocked.
This year's first use of moving human figures is based on the hugely popular production originated by the Sicilian Puppet Theatre. Adapted from the 1516 poem by the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto, "Orlando Furioso" is about the exploits of Roland (Orlando) and other knights in Charlemagne's battle against Saracen invaders.
"I wanted to do it last summer, but we didn't quite have the time to put it together," said Eytchison, who had come across the puppet production while researching ideas for the Laguna Beach pageant. The puppets in the theater versions were as tall as five feet, made of wood and metal and manipulated by strings and by rods, he said.
"I'm going for that same effect, right down to the simulation of strings and rods. We will be using the roof and hillside stages, as well as the main proscenium space. We're treating it with the respect that any work of masters deserves."
Auditions for cast members for all 24 pageant segments, including the puppet scene, will begin at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the Irvine Bowl. The 1987 pageant will require a nightly cast of 135, all volunteers.
This year's show is also staging a tableau based on orange-crate label art for the first time, Eytchison said.
The Pageant of the Masters has been held each summer in Laguna Beach since 1933 (except for four summers during World War II). It is presented in tandem with the Festival of Arts outdoor exhibition.