Pageant of the Masters

Laguna Beach, CA – The king of trial and error Thomas Edison once famously said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Few people are more aware of the amount of time and effort required to turn her inspiration into the 2012 Pageant of the Masters than its director Diane Challis Davy. But, even as she and her staff put the finishing touches on this summer’s world-famous theatrical celebration of art in “living pictures” – tableaux vivants – Challis Davy is excited about the possibilities inherent in its theme, The Genius.

“The theme actually originated back in 2009 when we produced The Muse,” Challis Davy explained. “That show examined women’s roles in making and inspiring art, and was selected from a feminine point of view. I thought it would be interesting to craft a ‘companion’ show, one with a masculine sensibility, focusing on the power, strength and intelligence inherent in masterful works of art.”

Challis Davy has also chosen a secondary theme for The Genius, the relationship between art and advances in science and technology. “I’m curious about the materials and techniques used by the old masters,” Challis Davy said. “One hundred fifty years ago, artists had to make their own paints! You almost had to be a chemist or alchemist. And I’m fascinated by the huge roles played by developments in optics and photography in painting realistic works.” She was quick to add, “But, you won’t have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy The Genius.

Clearly, the 2012 Pageant will be very different from the whimsical escapism of last summer’s Only Make Believe. Tributes to the lives and masterpieces of extraordinary artists whose works have withstood the test of time will be in the forefront of the 2012 Pageant, including Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh and the Dutch Masters, to name a few. Legendary composers will be feted in series of artworks dedicated to maestros of classical music, and scientific innovation will be highlighted in a tribute to some of the great minds in the field of astronomy. And Pageant traditionalists will no doubt welcome the return of the Renaissance master, Leonardo da Vinci, whose “The Last Supper” has been the Pageant finale, with rare exceptions, since 1936.

“‘The Last Supper,’ is arguably the most recognizable masterwork of all time,” Challis Davy observed, “and Leonardo da Vinci was a genius for the ages, no question. He was not afraid to experiment and take chances,” she said.

Longtime Pageant scriptwriter Dan Duling added, “Genius exists in every field of endeavor, and it’s a fantastic source for moving stories of triumph, tragedy and courage. If you’re looking for inspiration, this show is going to dare you to think big.”


When asked about what surprises will be in store in terms of music or special effects, Challis Davy, in her 17th year as Pageant director, noted there are plans for some advances in sound design and digital projection, and hopes for some “unexpected light effects.” Laughing, she added, “Sorry, no 3-D glasses.”

With its ambitious selection of masterpieces from many different eras, The Genius will certainly be an exciting centerpiece for the Festival of Art’s 80th anniversary. Many special events are in the works for the summer-long celebration of the Festival’s remarkable eight decades. Surviving through thick and thin, it has consistently offered support to the city and local arts organizations and become a nationally-recognized showcase of regional fine art.

Meanwhile, backstage at the Pageant, the Festival’s annual centerpiece and primary source of funding, everyone associated with the production understands the Pageant wouldn’t be possible without its amazing volunteers. As Challis Davy acknowledges, their dedication and loyalty are the remarkable engines that sustain the Pageant.

“I love art AND theatre,” Challis Davy said, “and I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who love the hard work it takes to produce a very elaborate show. I get inspiration from my scriptwriter, my staff, my composers, and from the scores of enthusiastic research volunteers who come up with great suggestions!”

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