Laguna Beach – Pageant of the Masters Happiness

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“Autumn is the season of moon viewing.” This was the elegant phrase spoken softly by a Japanese woman as a huge glowing moon appeared in the sky. It looked so real and so amazing on a cool, clear night in the outdoor theatre.

The Pageant of the Masters show in Laguna Beach, California is where painting and sculpture masterpieces are recreated with people accompanied by live orchestra and narration of stories attached to what you are looking at. You may be familiar with the Modern Family attempt to recreate a Rockwell painting. It’s funny because this is how I finally explained and convinced my husband to go. After the very first painting displayed he leaned over in amazement to me and said, “It looks like a real painting!”

It’s pretty incredible that people can freeze for longer than they can hold their breath. Sometimes this happens when they are moving stages and spoiler – when 3 nude (not nude) women bronzes of water dancers hold impossible ballerina style dance poses, while the stage is moving! Talk about a strong core!

The theme of the pageant this year was the pursuit of happiness. While it started out with the lighthearted images of Norman Rockwell, it also got deep in the Japanese art display. We were treated to Kabuki dancing, music, haiku and traditional dress, paintings, and even a little Japanese house. Did you ever see the movie The Last Samurai? (Highly recommended). The stagecraft invoked the same most beautiful snow and falling cherry blossom images. You felt you were in the midst of it, music and all. There was a painting of traditional Japanese women in a park with cherry blossoms. The Japanese woman said something very poignant to the effect of the season of cherry blossom viewing brings strangers in the city field (park) closer. This was a beautiful sentiment since there we all were watching this show with the same amazement, all a little bit closer in this shared wonderment. But what gave it that Last Samurai heart-wrenching moment was as the two Kabuki dancers delicately shuffle off into the rice paper doored house. The narrator reminds us in her haunting, accepting voice that “lost gold is easily found but misplaced time is lost forever.” A very fitting underscore of the pursuit of happiness theme.

Needless to say the show is amazing, as is Laguna Beach. The orchestra was fantastic playing everything from light-hearted and funny music, to Japanese, Indian, and classical across centuries. The show is not without humor, having given a special homage to the 1950s woman’s elation with the modern kitchen, and to coffee which brings many of us great happiness. You’ll definitely enjoy paintings of George Washington with Betsy Ross, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and stories of Madame de Pompadour (official mistress of King Louis XV). If you visit Laguna Beach, make sure see the Sawdust Festival a short walk away from the Pageant of the Masters. It’s a long day. You will be exhausted but feel you have achieved some unique happiness.

Season is over August 31, 2015 but tickets start to go on sale for 2016 in December 2015. Note: Sawdust ends Aug 30. Hint: you don’t need the pricey seats because you can see well from everywhere. If you can afford it, great, but otherwise don’t worry. You cannot take pictures, but do bring binoculars or opera glasses and dress in layers in case it gets cold. It is right off the ocean. And yes, there is a Wyland Gallery there as well as many other galleries, beaches and great food.

Whatever you are doing today, hold on to the happiness in everyday things and nature. Enjoy the sunshine even in the drought areas because time will pass and the leaves will fall soon enough. There is happiness and beauty everywhere if we would all open our eyes, hearts and minds to it. Definitely pursue happiness because it is otherwise assured to no one.


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