As the Pageant of the Masters – Laguna Beach’s world-famous celebration of art in “living pictures” – tableaux vivants – enters its ninth decade, Pageant director Diane Challis Davy was eager to field questions during a “third degree” about her 2014 theme, The Art Detective. To the question: Who is “the Art Detective”? Challis Davy replied, “Anyone who suffers from a case of curiosity, who’s driven to ask who, what, where, when and why.” She added, “Who doesn’t love to solve a mystery or enjoy a good scandal or a ‘ripping yarn’?”
The original inspiration for the theme, she said, came from television shows like “The History Detectives” and the “Connections” series, as well as from her love of Sherlock Holmes stories. But, as with all her Pageants, this one begins with great masterpieces of art. “We’ll feature Manet’s ‘Olympia,’ Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch,’ Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ and ‘Madame X’ by John Singer Sargent,” Challis Davy noted, revealing just a few of the highlights from her list. “The Art Detective will be beautiful, fun, enlightening and mysterious. And through the art of storytelling, we’ll shed light on true and sensational art history.”
Speaking of storytelling, Challis Davy’s veteran scriptwriter Dan Duling expressed his own enthusiasm for the 2014 theme: “The history of art is filled with whodunits, unsolved mysteries and tales of discoveries that changed the way we look at the world. Behind every masterpiece, there are clues to many other mysteries. I can’t wait to explore these dramatic tales of art lost and found, and the amazing efforts to preserve and protect our artistic heritage.”
The 2014 Pageant will also revisit the world’s most costly, as yet unsolved, art heist. In 1990, thieves stole a Vermeer painting and several other priceless works from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It’s a case that, after all these years, now seems on the verge of a breakthrough. That possibility prompted Challis Davy to wonder, “Will it be solved before our season ends?”
As with last year’s tribute to movies and masterpieces, The Art Detective will have its share of theatrical surprises and exciting revelations, and an all-new score written by its contributing composers and performed each night by the Pageant’s world-class orchestra under the direction of conductor John Elg. Returning to the narrator’s booth for his fourth year at the Pageant is Richard Doyle.
The Pageant’s 2014 casting calls will take place on January 4th, 5th and 9th. There, volunteers sign up, get their photos and measurements on file and then wait to hear if they’ll be a part of the upcoming Pageant. Last year, more than 1,200 people turned out, and nearly 500 played vital roles onstage in its two casts and assisting behind the scenes. Challis Davy hopes to see another amazing turnout of familiar faces and many new ones showing up for casting in 2014.
Everyone associated with the production gratefully understands the Pageant wouldn’t be possible without its volunteers, which also include Challis Davy’s research committee. Now numbering nearly 100 participants, the research committee members are amateur “art detectives” in their own right, presenting suggestions every year for consideration as Challis Davy begins the challenging process of choosing artworks for the Pageant’s new theme.
Finally, Challis Davy was asked if she could offer any other clues about what’s in store for audiences in 2014. With a conspiratorial smile, she said, “I want to keep them on the edge of their seats.”