Artist David Cooke paints a classic canvas, with strategic places for costumed players.

For many Southern Californians, summer is not complete without a visit to the annual Pageant of the Masters/ Festival of the Arts where art literally comes to life in front of your eyes. Under a starlight sky, large paintings appear on stage complete with real people dressed and posing IN the art as the original characters.  ‘Tableaux vivant’ or ‘living pictures’ as it’s called.

This year the theme is ‘Under the Sun,’inspired by Laguna’s own artistic pioneers. An apt title for a unique Californian experience, wouldn’t you say?

One ticket gets you seats to the remarkable nighttime spectacle plus artists and craftsmen set up their wares around the picnic area and band stage. For a really civilized experience, come early, get a glass of wine, enjoy a baguette and cheese (or really, whatever you want) and enjoy the music.

A tremendous amount of work goes into the festival as we found out when we took a special media tour. Besides the live orchestra, live narration, the team of volunteers, the actors/actresses, there’s an army of costumers, makeup artists, and artists working behind the scenes to make the magic happen.

We saw a troop of young boys made up as fishermen (below) and then 20 minutes later, the reappeared in a painting onstage. (Stage managers carefully help them into position; often balancing the actors on hidden platforms and braces.)








This year the cozy restaurant, Terra Laguna Beach, which overlooks the grounds has been completely renovated into an airy, sparkling space with Chef Jenny Messing, a California native, running the kitchen. (Though we do miss the ambiance of the cozy grotto-type cafe from before.)

We had the fresh salmon with a dusting of ginger, grapefruit salsa, and pickled Serrano peppers which was moist and flavorful, along with the grilled flank steak with a toasted walnut chimichurri sauce and a side salad of mixed green, fresh strawberries, toasted almonds, chevre in a rose vinaigrette which left us wanting more. Make sure to make reservations since it fills up fast.

Picnicking on the Festival Green is also a fun option, especially for families and there’s Gina’s Alfresco for pizza, hot and cold sandwiches plus the very popular coffee bar, not to mention the even-more-popular wine bar. (There are some tables available but they’re on a first-come-first-served basis.)

See you there!

“Under the Sun”

July 7 – September 1, 2018
Nightly at 8:30pm

Advance Tickets $15 – $240


PHOTO CREDIT: Julie Schlax-Patrick