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YOUR TABLEAUX ARE READY : In Laguna, Stage Is Set for Another Pageant of the Masters and a Trio of Art Festivals

July 11, 1991|RICK VANDERKNYFF | Rick VanderKnyff is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition.

It's that time of year again, the time when artists move outdoors to hawk their creations, when strangely clad volunteers imitate works of art on stage and tourists flock.

The Festival of Arts was born in 1932, the Pageant of the Masters the year after, and ever since then Laguna Beach has been drawing visitors attracted by the town's reputation as an art colony.

Again this year, hundreds of local artists are offering their wares in three big outdoor shows along Laguna Canyon Road, with the Festival of Arts joined by two events celebrating their 25th birthdays, the Sawdust and Art-A-Fair festivals.

And again, the centerpiece of the annual summertime phenomenon is the Pageant of the Masters, a throwback to the days before television and Disneyland that has become a local institution.

The complex tableaux vivants of the Pageant are achieved with the help of more than 100 gallons of makeup, 400 yards of cloth for costumes, 600 yards of cloth for backgrounds and 12,000 linear feet of lumber for sets.

The full-time production staff, which includes everything from a sculptor to a wig styling and headpiece director, is aided by a volunteer cast of more than 200 models.

It all started rather more modestly in 1933, when the run was less than a week (it's now 52 days) and the cost of admission was a dime (tickets now run $9 to $38). The first pageant cleared $475, while these days the event raises about $150,000 for scholarships.

But the basic premise--re-creating works of art on stage with living models--has remained unchanged. It's a quaint ritual, but one that somehow continues to draw more than 140,000 visitors each season.

This year, the works on the program include those by such perennial favorites as Renoir and Winslow Homer. Other artists include Edward Henry Potthast, Georges Seurat, Clyde Singer, John Sloan and John Nieto (represented by four works). In addition to oil paintings, inspirations for the planned tableaux include jewelry, porcelain figures, Persian tiles and jade carvings.

As is tradition, Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" will close the pageant and Thurl Ravenscroft will narrate.

Meanwhile, the art festivals are already in full swing. Along with the art, the three festivals also offer entertainment, art and craft demonstrations and workshops, along with food concessions.

The non-juried Sawdust Festival features fanciful booths that take up to a month to build. The entertainment includes about seven acts a day, from magicians to musicians. Free art lessons and children's activities are offered at the Art-A-Fair. Among the scheduled events at the Festival of Arts: Ballet Pacifica will perform each Sunday afternoon at 5 on the grounds.

Parking and traffic for the festivals can be troublesome. In addition to the available parking along Laguna Canyon Road, free parking is offered about a quarter-mile east of the Sawdust Festival at Laguna High School, 625 Park Ave. A frequent shuttle bus from the high school goes to all festivals, the beach and downtown business areas daily from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

The shuttle price is 75 cents for each trip or $2.50 for an unlimited day pass.

What: Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters, the Sawdust Festival and Art-A-Fair Festival.

When: Festival of Arts, through Aug. 30 (daily, 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; pageant at 8:30 p.m.). Sawdust Festival, through Sept. 1 (Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday till 11 p.m.). Art-A-Fair, through Sept. 1 (Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday till 10 p.m.).

Where: Festival of Arts, Irvine Bowl Park, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Sawdust Festival and Art-A-Fair, 935 Laguna Canyon Road.

Whereabouts: San Diego Freeway to Laguna Canyon Road exit, south to grounds near downtown area.

Wherewithal: Festival admission is $1 to $2 (under 12 free); pageant tickets are $9 to $38. Admission to the Sawdust Festival is $3-$4 (under 12 free) and to Art-A-Fair is $2.50-$3.50 (under 12 free).

Where to call: Festival of Arts, (714) 494-1145; Sawdust Festival, (714) 494-3030; Art-A-Fair, (714) 494-4514.

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