Hoping to keep its signature Pageant of the Masters production from appearing in other cities, Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts will ask its 4,000 members to approve a proposal that would prohibit licensing the event without a vote of the entire membership.
The decision to send out mail-in ballots was endorsed by 88% of the 246 members who attended a special meeting Saturday called by the festival's board of directors.
"There was a very vociferous and widespread rejection of the concept that was introduced last year of licensing the pageant," said board President Anita Mangels.
She said amending the bylaws would afford the strongest protection against another try.
The Pageant of the Masters, a 70-year-old Laguna Beach hallmark, reenacts art masterpieces with live models, called tableaux vivants, and serves as the centerpiece of the summer festival.
A 2002 plan by then executive director Steven Brezzo to have the pageant produced in other communities caused an uproar among members.
The proposal, which many members said would dilute the hometown charm and distinction that the pageant enjoys, prompted a revolt that led to the ouster of then-board President Bruce Rasner, who supported the concept.
Brezzo resigned last August with more than a year remaining on his contract, and sued board members, claiming they waged a campaign to undermine his authority and mission. The suit is pending.
This year's festival and pageant, which run through late August, have been free of turmoil.
The meeting Saturday, which coincided with an annual membership appreciation day, was meant to bring closure to the rancor of the recent past.
"It's certainly putting the controversy behind us and moving forward so we can get back to the basics," Mangels said.
The mail-in ballots -- given to members who live in Orange County -- should be returned, tallied and announced by the end of summer, Mangels said.
If successful, it will be the second time in four years that the membership has amended its bylaws with an aim to protecting the festival's integrity.
In 2000, board members threatened to take the festival to San Clemente during a rent dispute with the city of Laguna Beach.
In addition to recalling those board members who favored the move, the membership voted for an amendment that permanently kept the festival in Laguna Beach.
"A bylaws amendment is the strongest possible protection," Mangels said.
"If another board came in at some time in the future" and wanted to license the pageant "they would have to amend the bylaws again in order to do so."