Pageant of the Masters hopefuls try to measure up for their 90 seconds of fame

They enjoy theater, art and music. They like being in the spotlight. And they can stand still for 90 seconds.

Volunteers hoping for a chance to be cast members in the next Pageant of the Masters turned out by the hundreds Friday night for the first of three casting calls scheduled through Sunday at the pageant's home, the Irvine Bowl at the Festival of Arts grounds in Laguna Beach.


Saturday's casting call is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. and Sunday's for 2 to 5 p.m.

The 2017 pageant, titled "The Grand Tour," is inspired by early travelers in the 17th and 18th centuries who often risked life and limb on land and sea on pilgrimages to the great cultural centers of Europe and around the globe.


As is the pageant's custom, artworks will be re-created in a 90-minute show of "living pictures," or tableaux vivants. Among them are 19th-century posters of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, sculptures of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and gilt bronze statues of the La France Triomphante fountain and the Fountain of Apollo, both housed at the Palace of Versailles in France.

The pageant, scheduled for July 7 to Aug. 31, will end with the traditional finale, "The Last Supper."

Cast members of all sizes and ages are needed. The only prerequisite is being able to stand still for 90 seconds.

Volunteers also are needed to help with makeup, wardrobe and refreshments. All have to take part in the casting process.

Brother and sister Max, 12, and Bella Estrada, 16, arrived Friday night with cousins Malia, 16, and Luke Ramirez, 12, to fill out paperwork and wait in line to be tape-measured and photographed.

The Lake Forest residents said they like to try out for the show because they make new friends and create memories with their family.

Bella had the opportunity to play artist Frida Kahlo in the 2016 production, titled "Partners." Max appeared in a painting of the Wright brothers, and Malia performed in a parade scene. This year's casting call is Luke's first.

"There's nothing like this," Bella said. "We all love being in the show, and it's fun every year."

Costa Mesa resident Charlie Bevins, a real estate appraiser, said he has tried out four times at pageant casting calls. He appeared in a scene from the movie "Amadeus" during the 2013 production, titled "The Big Picture."

Bevins said the pageant is an enjoyable experience, though he said volunteers should know they are required to perform for 30 days served in alternating weeks.

About 400 to 500 people will receive callbacks for additional assessments over the next few months, Challis Davy said.

It will be a particularly celebratory pageant, festival officials said, with a renovation of the festival grounds expected to be completed in July.

Construction began last year, with crews demolishing exhibit spaces, an arts center and a center stage. The $10-million project will feature terraced exhibit spaces, updated restrooms and widened pathways.

Rick Lang, official Festival of Arts photographer, sat behind a camera Friday evening and photographed each casting call participant. The images are sent to the creative team, which stores the photos and body dimensions in a database. People are selected for each tableau based on their height and resemblance to the subjects.

Lang, a Laguna Beach resident, has photographed pageant hopefuls for 47 years. He said volunteers have asked for multiple takes to capture their best side. He's seen skunks and raccoons wander into the outdoor orchestra pit during a show.

But he most appreciates the festival's camaraderie.

"The people who are here right now are family," Lang said. "It's a love of what they're doing."*


When: 8:30 p.m. daily from July 7 to Aug. 31

Where: Irvine Bowl, Festival of Arts grounds, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

Cost: $15 to $230

Information:, (800) 487-3378