that brings famous works of art to life. Held outdoors at the Irvine Bowl in Laguna Beach, CA, the Pageant combines live performance and stunning visual art, recreating famous masterpieces using real people as live paintings, sculptures, and other artwork. The theme for 2023 is “Art Colony: In the Company of Artists”.
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The performers are carefully costumed and made up to look exactly like their counterparts in the original works. Most of the time I couldn’t tell the difference and I had binoculars!
The result is truly magical.
In addition to tableaus vivants (“living images”), the Pageant also features a live orchestra, original music, and narration that provides context for each piece. I don’t know art history, so storytelling was key for me as the show took us from Monet through the more contemporary Harlem Renaissance artworks, and ended with DaVinci’s “The Last Supper.” Midway through the show, the audience got a behind-the-scenes look at how the living images were created, and it was mesmerizing.
This performing arts festival celebrates its 90th anniversary, lasts 90 minutes and takes place every evening from July to September.
In short: the Pageant of the Masters is worth it. It is an unmissable, unique and unforgettable experience that I keep talking about. I can’t wait to see what the show will be like next year!
Participation of local artists
Although the primary focus of the Pageant of the Masters is the recreation of artwork, local artists may be involved as actors, costume and makeup designers, set designers, prop design, art direction, and exhibition. A competition of this magnitude takes a village!
Tips for the Best Masters Pageant Experience
- Buy your contest tickets early. This Laguna art show is a popular event and tickets sell out fast. Check Groupon for special prices.
- Be ready for any weather. This annual event, held in an outdoor amphitheater, takes place rain or shine, so check the forecast before you go and slip a rain poncho into your purse.
- Dress comfortably. Because the show takes place outdoors, it is cool at night. Bring a jacket and blanket. Blankets are available for purchase.
- Rent or bring binoculars and seat cushions. We had good seats, but it’s fun to see the amazing detail in each piece of living art. Plus, with binoculars, you worry less about where you’re sitting. I rented binoculars for act 2 and what a difference!
- Bring the kids. The Pageant is family friendly. Children 4 years and older are welcome.
- Arrive early. There is a lot to see! The junior art exhibit is fantastic, featuring artists from grades 1-12. The exhibition hall inside is full of works of art of all kinds.
- Bring your own food and drinks. Personal snacks and beverages are permitted (coolers, picnic baskets, or any other container must not exceed 14″x14″x14″). You may also bring your own alcohol if you are 21 or older. Note, however, that glass bottles and containers are not permitted and intoxication is not tolerated.
- Drinks are sold there. Terra, Intermission, and the Wine Bar on the Festival of Arts grounds sell food, alcohol, snacks, and beverages.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Pass the first bar to the concession which offers reasonably priced snacks and drinks.
Pageant of the Masters Details
- Accessible seating is available.
- The show starts at 8:30pm sharp, so you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to find your seats and settle in.
- Intermission is 15 minutes.
- There are a number of restrooms located throughout the amphitheater.
- No photography or audio/video recording of any kind is permitted during the contest.
- Performances take place every evening until September 1, 2023.
The Irvine Bowl is located at 650 Laguna Canyon Rd, Laguna Beach, CA 92651.
There is a parking lot located next to the amphitheater, but it can fill up quickly. If you plan to drive, I recommend arriving early to secure a spot. Free carts are available to transport people to downtown Laguna and to remote parking lots.
Laguna Beach is 50 miles (1-1.5 hours) from Los Angeles, 85 miles (1.5-2 hours) from San Diego, and 400 miles from San Francisco (6-7 hours).
If you are not driving, there are several transport options depending on your departure location and your preferences:
- By plane: The nearest major airport is John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Santa Ana, Orange County. From there, it’s about a 15 mile drive via car rental, taxi, ride-sharing service, or shuttle.
- By train: You can take Amtrak and Metrolink to nearby towns of Irvine or Anaheim, then take a taxi or rideshare to Irvine Bowl.
- By bus: Various bus services operate in California, such as Greyhound and Megabus, which can take you to nearby towns like Santa Ana or Irvine. From there, you can take a taxi or carpool to the Pageant.