Laguna Beach

Opening: The Pageant of the Masters

The curtain draws back on the long-running Laguna Beach "hold still" happening.

Slight on-stage bobbles and hiccups and unexpected moments are par for the course when one is enjoying a live performance.

From your 5-year-old kid missing his kindergarten play cue to an esteemed Broadway actor getting a case of the giggles, the off-book error can charm and delight an audience.

But perhaps nowhere more so than in Laguna Beach, during the annual Pageant of the Masters, the "tableaux vivant" legend where actors on stage stand very, very still for impressive amounts of time.

The pageant debuts for its 2015 July-into-August season on Wednesday, July 8. The theme? "The Pursuit of Happiness."

Make no mistake, the hundreds of volunteers who striken, then hold, a pose astound. They seem not to actually breathe as they joyfully breathe life into a famous artwork. "Polished" and "elegant" and "stately" and "amazing" are words that spring to mind for these paintings-brought-to-life professionals.

However, catching an actor inside a painting while they're in mid-blink is a thrill. Seeing a pinky finger brush a bit of fabric can make an audience member's heart skip a beat. Watching a chin tilt an iota may make you want to focus on that performer even further.

Because the pageant's re-created paintings are so real, down to the sculptural face make-up and exquisite costuming, that a little twitch, here and there, can remind one that, nope, you're not in a museum, looking at static material. You're watching talented humans convincingly summon sculptures and brush-stroked scenes created long ago, through their form and stance and ability to not move an inch.

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Just the very rare centimeter. And that chance of seeing a blink is what lends the founded-in-1932 Pageant of the Masters its funky-fancy flavor and its true-blue quirk. It is an event known the world over, a pomp-filled festivity that's sometimes satirized, frequently fawned over, and attended by loyal fans who've gone each and every summer for decades.

How many other live and on-stage things can claim that? 

May your human-laden paintings and sculptures bewitch, dear pageant, but, yes, we out in the audience are forever hoping to catch a famous portrait enjoying a quick little blink or nose twitch.

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