The Pageant of the Masters is an annual festival held by the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach, California. The event is known for its tableaux vivants or "living pictures" in which classical and contemporary works of art are recreated by real people who are made to look nearly identical to the originals through the clever application of costumes, makeup, headdresses, lighting, props, and backdrops.
The first Festival of Arts was produced in 1932, and the first presentation of the Pageant was done in 1933. Since then, the two events have been held each summer, apart from a four-year interruption caused by World War II & in 2020 caused by COVID-19 pandemic.
In 1933, at the second Festival of Arts, artist Lolita Perine had an idea for a living work of art. Persuading residents of Laguna Beach to dress in costume, she seated them behind an oversized frame, recreating well-known works of art. The "Spirit of the Masters Pageant" was formally started the next year by the Festival's organizers and was put on again in 1934, but in those early days was an amateur operation of low quality.
In 1934, local developer Roy Ropp expressed his dissatisfaction with the poor quality of the production in blunt terms; the Festival's board responded to his frank criticism by placing him in charge of the Pageant. He renamed it the "Pageant of the Masters" and with the assistance of his wife, Marie, he organized a high-quality and well-received production in the summer of 1935. Building upon this initial success, the Ropps continued to refine and improve the Pageant through its 1941 production; then the Festival and Pageant were suspended for four years due to World War II. Because of increasing personal friction between the Ropps and the Festival's board, Roy Ropp came back only once after the war to direct the Pageant, in 1950.
Ropp died in 1974, but today is still remembered as the "Father of the Pageant."