Laguna Beach’s Festival of Arts grounds are usually quiet early in the year.
But the Irvine Bowl bustled with activity Friday night as hopefuls for this summer’s Pageant of the Masters came from all over Orange County to answer an open casting call.
The theme of this year’s pageant, “Made in America,” will follow in the tradition of the event’s nearly 90-year history of live re-creations of classic artworks but will focus on pieces from American artists.
“It really gives us something to feel proud about — the heritage of the great American artist,” said Diane Challis Davy, who is in her 25th season as a producer and director of the pageant. “I’m looking forward to it. We haven’t done an American art show since 1996.”
Sharbie Higuchi, director of marketing and public relations for the Festival of Arts, said the organization expects 1,200 to 1,300 hopefuls of all ages to attend this year’s casting call, which continues through Sunday.
About 300 people are expected to be included in the pageant cast — two groups split into 150 volunteers each — and an additional 200 will help behind the scenes.
“It’s marvelous getting to people-watch. You see all kinds come through — seeing the ages, it’s very sweet.” Davy said Friday, laughing as she wrote the names of prospective cast members passing through. “I’ve been here so many decades that I’ve seen multiple generations grow up.”
The process of volunteering hasn’t changed much over the years, Davy said. “It seems like people are wearing fewer blue jeans these days,” she joked.
Prospects lined up Friday night to have about 35 measurements taken to help fit them to possible roles.
Amy Ashland of Laguna Hills attended with her three children. She said her father took her to see the Pageant of the Masters several times when she was a child.
“He just thought it was amazing. I thought it was amazing. We’d bring binoculars because from our seats, it just looked like a flat painting,” Ashland said. “So it was really cool with binoculars to once in awhile see ... the actors blink, and I just thought it’d be really cool to do it.”
She added that it’s important for her kids to learn the value of the arts.
Gary Sosenko, 72, of Orange said this will be his 17th year participating as a makeup artist.
“It gets to be like a family. You get to know everybody, and it’s creative and fun,” Sosenko said. “The detail and the organization — in order for it to run smoothly ... it’s like a beehive. Everybody has to do their part. ... Like an anthill or something.”
For Steve Ward of Laguna Niguel, participating in the pageant is a way to spend time with his wife, who has been involved in the showcase for 13 years.
"[The Pageant of the Masters is] a pretty big commitment,” Ward said. “It’s a summer-long commitment. She’s down here every other week all summer, so I would just come down so that we’re both doing it together.”
Davy said 30% to 40% of the volunteers are returnees. “It’s nice to see them and it’s nice to have all of this support,” she said. “It’s just always a fun get-together.”
IF YOU GO
What: Open casting call for 2020 Pageant of the Masters
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday and 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Irvine Bowl, Festival of Arts grounds, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach
More: This year’s pageant will run July 8 through Sept. 3. For more information, visit foapom.com/pageant-of-the-masters.