A masterful pageant

My goodness, whoever heard of rain in Southern California in July? The quick rain shower on Saturday evening was quite a surprise! The sky was lovely after the rain, with clouds that were white on the top with dark underbellies. It was such a moody night and the air so fragrant after being dampened. I was drinking it all in — it was so beautiful.

I happily made my annual trek last week to Laguna Beach to attend the 77th presentation of the world-renown Laguna Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters. Since I was just an elementary school girl, the pageant and art show have been part of my summer experience — by now it is tradition.

It was sad for me to go to this year's pageant and not see longtime La Cañada resident Peter Brown in his usual place as James the Greater in the pageant's "Last Supper" scene. Peter died of pancreatic cancer at his home in New Zealand last November with his wife Pat and daughter Louise by his side.

For more than a score of years, the Louise Tingey/Peter Brown families of La Cañada were involved in the pageant as volunteers. Mrs. Tingey was a teacher and principal in the La Cañada school district for many years. Her daughter Pat, who married New Zealander Peter Brown, was also a teacher in our school district until Peter and Pat moved to New Zealand a few years ago. Their daughter, named Louise after her grandmother, went to school here and after graduation from college moved to New Zealand, where she is now a prosecuting attorney.

Peter, a food and wine connoisseur who taught classes about wine at an Orange County college, would have loved this year's pageant theme, "Eat, Drink and be Merry!"

Even though each year I am always amazed how creative and wonderful the pageant's presentation of tableaux vivants ("living pictures") is, this year's production was over the top. It was a multimedia production in every way, and even the audience got into the act as they were encouraged to sing along in the 1931 song, "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries."

There was a joyful tribute to Mardi Gras, with beads being thrown to audience members and a delightful parade of fruits, vegetables and delicacies such as oysters-on-the-half-shell and lobsters dancing through the aisles — the costumes were fabulous!

Challis Davy, director of the production, said she had the idea of the theme long before "the economy went south." She said that since economic uncertainty is on everyone's mind, the value and relevance of a theme that acknowledges humanity's unique capacity for resilience was apparent to her.

"In tough times most of us could use some art entertainment that's just for the fun of it," Davy said. "I wanted to bring the audience artworks that reflect humanity's collective capacity for seizing the moment, letting our hair down and raising a heartfelt toast to the good life.

"Along the way, I wanted to show parallels that will be drawn between the elegant fetes of 17th century France and the all-night parties of the Jazz Age.

"I wanted to present timeless masterpieces from all diverse eras that will reveal how art has enhanced mankind's capacity for celebration both when times were good and when times were hard, evidenced in a contrasting meditation on the response of artists to the Great Depression."

One of the paintings presented in the pageant has a copy of our parent publication, the Los Angeles Times, prominently featured. The art piece by Laguna Beach artist Scott Moore is titled "Coffee and Donuts."

Taking a day or an evening off to visit Laguna's Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters is a unique getaway for the entire family.

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. She can be reached at jnvalleysun@aol.com.

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