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Pageant of the Masters casts wide net in preparation for ‘Wonderful World’ show

Volunteer Kathleen Pondinas, left, measures Layla Hartwell-Lewis during casting calls for the Pageant of the Masters.
Volunteer Kathleen Pondinas, left, gets down on one knee as she measures Layla Hartwell-Lewis from head to toe during casting calls for the Pageant of the Masters 2022 show “Wonderful World” at the Festival of Arts on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

During the summer months, audiences inside the Irvine Bowl in Laguna Beach are captivated by the artworks recreated on stage in the form of living pictures, or tableaux vivants.

For those who have wondered how they can become part of the show, the time is now.

The Pageant of the Masters has been holding an open casting call for its next show, “Wonderful World,” this weekend, wrapping up with a three-hour window for interested parties to put their hat in the ring on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m.

Men and women, boys and girls of all ages and sizes are needed to bring the art to life. A background in theater is not required for this starring role, one in which those who get called upon to be in the show will have to demonstrate their ability to fulfill one task once backstage crews have completed their transformation: stand still in costume for 90 seconds.

Will Nighswonger has his forehead measured as he walks through the casting call for the Pageant of the Masters on Friday.
Will Nighswonger has his forehead measured as he walks through the casting call for the Pageant of the Masters 2022 show “Wonderful World” at the Festival of Arts on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Pageant director Diane Challis Davy said she was hoping for a good turnout after the coronavirus pandemic prevented a casting call from taking place last year, resulting in the “Made in America” show being put on entirely by returnees.

The current casting call is different, as well, with the entire process of acquiring contact information and taking measurements and photos being done outside on the Festival of Arts grounds. Masks are also required.

“For us who have been here for many years, this is like an open house almost, and we’re greeting people who have been here before and hopefully making a good impression on people who’ve never been here before,” Challis Davy said. “This is very different for all of us because, for one thing, we missed a casting call in 2021. … We had a show but no casting call.”

“Wonderful World” will run nightly from July 7 to Sept. 2. Rehearsal will begin in February, Challis Davy said.

JoAnne Motter and Peter Kurtz look over the tableauxs chosen for 2022 on Friday.
JoAnne Motter and Peter Kurtz, who met at the Pageant show and are soon getting married on the grounds, look over the tableauxs chosen for 2022 on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Pageant has a family of volunteers, and that is being taken to another level this spring. JoAnne Motter, 51, and Peter Kurtz, 48, who met by being cast in the same piece in 2016, are due to be married at the Festival of Arts on April 23.

“It was really cute because obviously we’re older, and my daughter had just went to college,” Motter said. “People were like, ‘You need to start meeting people and having a life,’ and so our friends from the Pageant kind of knew that we liked each other. They said, ‘Oh, let’s go out after this,’ and then everyone bailed and left us together, so that was the first date [at the Sandpiper].”

Kurtz would go on to make a nostalgic proposal, doing so in seats where he and his fiancée would sit while they were cast together as Capt. William Clark and Sacagawea in Edgar S. Paxson’s “Lewis and Clark at Three Forks.”

Prospective cast members look over the tableauxs chosen for the Pageant of the Masters 2022 show, "Wonderful World."
Prospective cast members look over the tableauxs chosen for the Pageant of the Masters 2022 show, “Wonderful World,” at the Festival of Arts on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“Backstage, you get to spend a lot of time together, once you get in costume and everything, and then there’s a lot of waiting time,” Kurtz said. “They have you sitting with just the people in your piece, in order, and so because we were next to each other in the piece, we were next to each other in the seats.”

Cadence Cooper, 26, of Laguna Beach, and her friend Savannah Moffat, 24, of Irvine, both showed up to the first day of the casting call on Friday as first-timers. They are holding out hope that they will get a call back, but the visit was already worth it to get a look at how the process unfolds.

“It’s exciting,” Cooper said. “After growing up around the Pageant, to see the background operations a little bit is something I haven’t seen, so that’s been fun.”

Vintage travel posters are some of the tableauxs chosen for the Pageant of the Masters 2022 show "Wonderful World."
Vintage travel posters are some of the tableauxs chosen for the Pageant of the Masters 2022 show “Wonderful World,” on display at the Festival of Arts on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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