by Donia Moore
Lights dim, curtains open, audiences gasp audibly as the 85th Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach opens its 2017 production on July 7. The 90 minutes of tableaux vivants (living pictures), are faithful re-creations of classical and contemporary works of art, with real people like San Clemente residents Vince and Viviana Moiso, posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces.
This year, local Vince Moiso has been cast as Mars, the God of War.
Each evening for eight weeks during the summer months (from July 7 to August 31 this year), master technicians of lighting and sound create the illusion of paintings or sculptures in the outdoor Irvine Bowl amphitheater with live volunteers as their subjects. Even as the pageant wizards attempt to show- and-tell for one of their creations, you may doubt your own eyes. Once the lights are lowered and the giant frame is moved onto the stage to surround the painting, you forget everything you just saw done, remembering only the finished result as the artwork comes to life.
San Clemente Residents Participate
Viviana Moiso and her father Vince Moiso have been patient Pageant participants for several years. Vince began his experience five-years-ago at the invitation of a friend who was in the Pageant. It soon became a family affair with his daughter Viviana who will complete her third year at the end of this summer’s production. Older daughter Isabella and wife Shelby spent a summer posing. Because Isabella and her mother are approximately the same size and bone structure, they were actually able to substitute for each other.
Viviana Moiso portrays Josephine Baker.
Casting calls and auditions begin in January. Once the cast member is selected, costuming and design begins, rehearsals start and they’re off to a busy year.
This year, Vince has been cast as the statue of Mars, the God of War, from The Giant’s Stairway of the Doge’s Palace in Venice. Sculpted in marble by Antonio Rizzo in 1567, the statue portrays a powerful, larger than life god.
At 6’2” with his athletic build, Vince is one of the few cast members who could carry it off.
Viviana portrays Josephine Baker in the painting by Zig Louis Gaudin. Created in 1930, the painting is called Josephine Baker Casino de Paris.
The pre-pose preparation time varies but generally it depends on the complexity of the art piece. For Vince, it requires 35-40 minutes of sitting very still as the paint is applied and has time to dry before he moves to his position on the stage. The paint is applied all over and he concedes that “If you are part of Men’s Sculpt, you have to have a good sense of humor… not much is left to the imagination”.
He and his cohort, who plays Neptune, must leave the prep area and arrive at the pose area at the same time. Once they are in place on the stairway, they will have to be absolutely still for three very long minutes, with minimal blinking or other movement. Normally, a pose lasts only 90 seconds, but due to the complexity of being a three dimensional statue, this pose is abnormally long.
As Josephine Baker, Viviana’s painting will take less preparation time this year than in past seasons. “Last year, I was Frida Kahlo, complete with unibrow, but only my face and neck was painted. This year takes longer because more of my body needs to be coated and the paint cracks very easily.”
Vince’s favorite piece was the year he portrayed Prometheus at Rockefeller Square in New York City, complete with fake snow. “I was totally painted in gold from head to toe, and it just wouldn’t wash off.”
Viviana starts her sophomore year at San Clemente High School in the fall, and plans to attend college to become an anesthesiologist. Older sister Isabella has just completed her freshman year in the University of Missouri’s Nursing program. Mom Shelby is a flight attendant with Southwest Airlines.
When Vince isn’t posing, he is an entrepreneur, heading up VIS Aspire, Inc., consulting in the flooring business here in San Clemente. He is also an equity partner in a glass company called Oceanside Glass and Tile. Asked how long he expects to continue volunteering for the Pageant, he said “at least until Viviana goes off to college. It’s become such a family affair for us and gives me a great opportunity to spend time with my girls.”
It takes a cadre of volunteers to produce the Pageant. The small, paid staff relies on the hundreds of volunteers, adults and children, who come from all around Southern California. They dedicate the better part of a year and donate over 60,000 hours to bring the artwork to life each evening. Two casts operate – Green and Blue - typically alternating every other week. They play to more than a quarter of a million guests each year. “It’s a great way to get Community Service Hours for college,” notes Viviana.
No Passport Necessary for This Grand Tour
This year’s theme is The Grand Tour, featuring works depicting the trend in the 17th and 18th centuries of travel to experience the world’s great art firsthand. Inspired to set out on pilgrimages by land and sea to the great cultural centers of Europe and eventually the globe, those early travelers often risked life and limb to stand in the presence of masterpieces. From recreations of 15th and 16th century English and French paintings and sculptures to stainless steel and bronze contemporary pieces of the 21st century, the Pageant highlights that cultural craving. In keeping with tradition, the Pageant concludes with the recreation of Leonardo da Vinci’s breathtaking tempura mural of The Last Supper.
The first Festival of Arts, produced by local artist John H. Hinchman, was held in downtown Laguna, August 13-20, 1932. That summer, the Olympic Games were held in Los Angeles from July 30-August 14. Due to the lack of a permanent location, the Festival moved to various venues during the next seven years.
In 1933, an idea for a live art exhibition foreshadowed the Pageant of the Masters. Titled the Spirit of the Masters Pageant, artist Lolita Perine had an idea for a living work of art. Persuading residents of Laguna Beach to dress in costume, she seated them behind an oversized frame, recreating well-known works of art. The Spirit of the Masters Pageant was formally started that year by the Festival's organizers.
Following the 1934 presentation, local developer Roy Ropp was invited by the Festival's board to take charge of the Pageant. He renamed it the Pageant of the Masters and with the assistance of his wife, Marie, the Ropps continued to refine and improve the Pageant through its 1941 production; the Festival and Pageant were suspended for four years due to World War II.
Pageant Parking Tips and Tickets
There are only a few pick-up and drop-off parking spaces at the Irvine Bowl Pageant venue. There are eight public parking lots in the City of Laguna Beach, priced from $10-15 all day with slight increases on weekends and holidays. www.visitlagunabeach.com
has detailed information on parking locations throughout the city and the trolleys that run between them.
Advance Pageant tickets range from $15 to a Festival season pass costing $230. All admissions allow you to view the Festival of Arts Fine Art Show.