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Pageant of the Masters

Pageant of the Masters, a Southern California Tradition


Pageant of the Masters

Pageant of the Masters Scene

Courtesy of Pageant of the Masters

The Pageant of the Masters has lost none of its appeal over the years since it began in 1932. Every summer, audiences flock to see re-creations of original paintings. What's so unusual about that, you're probably wondering. The twist is that real people pose to look exactly like their counterparts in those works of art. And the wonder of it as good as any film's special effects: those three-dimensional people look as flat as any painter's canvas.

It's an experience that's hard to fully describe, but perhaps this will help. The picture you see above is not a woman looking at a painting. It's a member of staff inspecting four living, breathing women to be sure they're in the right spots and ready for their "scene." The magic is all done with paint and light, making those three dimensional scenes look flat.

If you're still feeling a bit baffled, watch the video at the Pageant of the Masters website.

During a 90-minute performance, about 20 art works go on display. A professional orchestra playing an original score provides the background music.

Smoking, cameras, audio recorders and children less than four years old are not admitted.

TV Trivia: In an episode of the television show Arrested Development, character George Sr. is released from prison for an afternoon to participate in the "Living Classics" pageant. Dressed as God, tries to escape from the pageant and a chase ensues.

Festival of Arts

Along with the Pageant of the Masters, Laguna Beach hosts the Festival of the Arts. It's a rigorously juried show of original works in all media. The festival takes place in a six-acre canyon park near the ocean and is open daily.

A Pageant of the Masters ticket or ticket stub gives you unlimited free admission to the festival. For those who don't attend the Pageant of the Masters, the festival charges a small admission fee. Laguna Beach residents with ID receive free admission, as do children under the age of 12.

Pageant of the Masters Tickets

Everyone who attends the Pageant of the Masters must have a ticket, regardless of age. No babies-in-arms permitted.

Pageant of the Masters ticket prices start at $20. You can order online or by calling the box office at 949-497-6582 or 800-487-3378, but do it early. The best seats sell out by January for performances starting in July. There is no waiting list.

If you find you've procrastinated too long, it's tempting to try buying tickets from a street scalper. It can be risky, but if you're determined, these tips may help you keep from getting cheated:

  • Know what the ticket looks like. Politely ask someone if you can see theirs.
  • Bring a seating chart. Unscrupulous scalpers may show you an altered one.
  • Bring cash.
  • Test the seller by asking if they'll walk to the gate with you. If they're reluctant, it could mean the tickets are counterfeit and they don't want to be around when it's discovered.
  • Be patient. You may get a better deal if you wait until just before the show starts.

You may also find Pageant of the Masters tickets for sale on eBay. This is an even more risky way to get them. If you decide to try it, be sure the seller has a good feedback rating, with more than just a few entries. Try to get the seller to give you a physical address where you can contact them in case of trouble.


    Dates: Every night, early July through early September
    Location: Laguna Beach, Orange County
    How Long: Each performance lasts about 90 minutes

Getting to the Pageant of the Masters

Pageant of the Masters
650 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Pageant of the Masters Website

Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters is held near the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway (CA 1) and Laguna Canyon Road. A detailed map is on the website.

Parking can be hard to find and you'll be less frustrated if you check their website before you go.

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