06 August 2010

Everybody frieze!

Hey Arrested Development fans, remember when the Bluth family participated in the Living Classics pageant, where actors were painted and posed to look like works of art? AKA tableaux vivant, if you want to get fancy about it?

I thought it was yet another event invented by Arrested Development writers to convey a sense of, "Ha ha, look what rich people do for fun!" but apparently the event was based on a REAL THING: the Pageant of the Masters!

...Is Motherboy real too?!

Aubrey passed along two free tickets to PotM to me this week, so C. and I made the trip to Laguna Beach a few days ago. We went with basically no idea what to expect. People acting out paintings on stage? They stand still and pretend to be art? For two hours?

It turned out to be really impressive! 30+ works of art, ranging in time from 5th century BCE to 2008. Sculptures, ceramics, prints, and jewelry pieces, but mostly paintings. The curtain would rise, or the audience's attention would be directed via spotlight to different parts of the stage and surroundings, and there would be a posed, painted and framed scene. There was much golf clapping. The orchestra played, as accompanying narration tied the work into the season's theme of Eat, Drink and Be Merry. The script was scattered with terrible jokes that the audience politely tittered at. "A reference to In-N-Out's 'Animal Fries'? How droll!"

A few times they turned the stage lights up just enough to let the audience see the sets and actors moving into position, for a behind-the-scenes peek. I brought along binoculars to get a close-up look, which revealed that the sets were intricately composed of disguised cutouts and hand- and foot-holds. For example...

In this Bon-Ton Burlesquers poster, the martini glass in the dancer's hand was attached to the scenery as a handle, and her feet were supported by narrow platforms. The dancer was the only actress in this piece.

The narration also pointed out how a large part of the illusion was careful stage lighting to eliminate shadows which would ruin the 2D look. They had a strict "no photography" rule, which was probably a good idea because hundreds of camera flashes would have really ruined it.

My favorite pieces were Gaston Doin's Carnival-themed oil painting, Reginald Marsh's Depression-era Breadline etching, and Carl Larsson's Brita, a Cat and a Sandwich, because a cat and a sandwich makes me pretty happy, too.

The most bizarre event was when the series of Mardi Gras scenes ended, culminating in a weird live parade of people dressed as food, winding their way through the audience. An old man dressed as asparagus danced with a young, lithe bunch of grapes, feet from where I sat. Bewildering!

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