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GALLERY

Life Imitating Art

August 08, 1993

When the sun sets and the orchestra begins at the Irvine Bowl Amphitheater in Laguna Beach, everything comes to a stop--literally.

It's a 60-year tradition known as the Pageant of the Masters, in which a series of history's great artworks are re-created on stage, populated by real people in lavish costumes and meticulous makeup.

To avoid spoiling the effect, each cast member (even the children) must freeze absolutely motionless for about 90 seconds as they bring each poster, painting or sculpture to life.

The audience of about 2,600 per night sometimes can't help but hold its collective breath in awe of re-creations of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper," a bell ringer from Munich's famous Glockenspiel, or a surfer riding the curl of a wave in Edmund Shumpert's statue "The Ultimate Challenge," a Huntington Beach landmark.

It takes a full-time staff of about 25 plus some 450 volunteers to present the annual pageant, which averages 40 to 50 re-creations per performance. About half work as cast members; the rest are involved in such support roles costuming and makeup. It takes about 45 minutes to turn each living, breathing cast member into a still life--for a fleeting moment.

The pageant continues through Aug. 29.

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