Pageant of the Masters gives first look at 'The Genius'

The Festival of the Arts gave a sneak peek Monday of the 2012 Pageant of the Masters, "The Genius."

Media gathered around an empty chess set as soldiers marched in the scene for "Waterloo Chess Set," which depicts the epic battle between Emperor Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington.

Although the behind-the-scenes secrecy was exposed to the public for the night, the magic certainly didn't disappear. As staff commanded the figures to pose, the cast members were transformed into the festival's legendary tableaux vivants.

Tripton Babcock, 7, sat above his horse in uniform. Even after the scene ended and reporters descended upon the chess pieces, Tripton stayed coldly in place, his right hand slipped into a holder, trying to avoid veering his gaze.

The Top of the World first grader said he likes his scene because "I like being on the giant horse."

Every year children from in and around Laguna Beach participate in the pageant.

Rachel Cornelison, 17, from Aliso Viejo is participating in the pageant for the first time this year.

"I saw it in the newspaper and I had seen it before," she said, dressed in soldier garb for "Waterloo Chess Set." "It's funny because I'm playing a boy. It's something different."

Backstage, kids and adults prepped in makeup before the audience watched them step into the paintings, a glimpse before they are turned around to face the stage and come to life, so to speak.

Francesca Monson, 11, has been doing the pageant for six years. She is in the "Gallery of the Louvre" painting.

Staying stiff for her painting "looks a lot harder than it is," she said.

Ian Ring, a sophomore at Laguna Beach High School, has participated in the show the past few years now. He said was originally tempted to take part three years ago to satisfy a community service requirement.

"Then it grew on me," he said, while makeup was being applied to his face for his part in "Galileo at the Court of Isabella." "I've made some friends. It's like a family."

"The Genius" is a homage to the masters, said Director Diane Challis Davy. It includes works by Bernini, Michelangelo, Johannes Vermeer, Peter Paul Rubens, Norman Rockwell, Auguste Rodin and Vincent Van Gogh. All the works are done by male artists except for one sculptor, Gertrude Whitney. Davy said it provides a contrast to 2009's "The Muse," which examined women's contributions to art.

Davy is excited to say the pageant will revisit a tradition, closing the show with Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper."

The Pageant of the Masters runs from July 7 to August 31. For more information, visit or call (800) 487-3378. The purchase of a pageant ticket also offers free admission to summer events at the Festival of Arts grounds.

Twitter: @joannaclay

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