When talking about the Utah Pageant of the Arts, many people call it "tableau vivant" (living pictures). I have difficulty with that term. True, real people are used - but they don't move, talk or breathe. And to me, "living" means animation, vigor and drawing breath.
For a number of years now, Utahns have been exposed to this unusual art form. Interestingly enough, this concept fascinates many. In fact, each year, more and more people attend the annual Utah Pageant of the Arts. Now celebrating its 16th birthday, the pageant has high hopes of enjoying a long and productive life.The growing up years were trial-and-error years. Many art works looked impossible to reproduce, so they weren't reproduced. But with the years came expertise and confidence. And now, it seems that the production team of over 100 finds few art works impossible to tackle.
And that technical know-how is evident in this year's production. Forty-seven art works, most of them paintings, sculptures and porcelains, have been meticulously reproduced. Each contains one or more cast members. Of the 47, 10 are popular repeats from previous years.
The 1988 program begins with Robert Russin's bronze sculpture "Prometheus." It ends with two stirring religion art works - a painting of Christ in Gethsemane and Michelangelo's marble sculpture "La Pieta," and in between are some pretty exciting art reproductions.
A number of crowd pleasers include: Stuart Mark Feldman's porcelain "The Olympic Spirit"; Japanese artist Utagawa Toyoharu's painting "Winter Party"' four colorful orange crate labels; a revolving silver soup tureen; Mario Moshi's popular bronze sculpture "Protection"; nine Hummel porcelains - many of them new this year. George McGonigle's porcelain "Lady and the Unicorn," and four of Erte's fabulous bronze sculptures.
One disappointment is the reproduction of Gainsborough's "Blue Boy," which looks pallid next to the superbly lighted "Pinky." The model is too squatty, his wig too dark and straight, and the lighting poor. They grate at the viewers' perception of how this painting really looks.
And "Chinese Mirror Painting" and sculpture "St. Michael Casting Lucifer Into Hell" are interesting, but certainly don't trigger spontaneous applause like many others.
Except for these few problems, the production is flawless - thanks to the talents of producer/director DAvid O. Brockbank, script writer Betty Spencer and narrator Aaron C. Card. Other key people whose efforts have been essential to the success of this production are Marjorie Davis (costume design), Tanja Brockbank (headgear); J. Lamont Felt and Eric Hanson (lighting design); Allen Pulley (stage manager); Clarke McFarlane, Steve Brockbank, and Steven C. Brockbank (scene construction); Dix Davis (Scenic sculptor); Denise Baird (casting director); Danielle Miner (assistant to the director); Audrey Davis and Leah Hanson (makeup).
Chairing the Professional Art Exhibit for her second year is Phebe Innes, who continues to involve some of Utah's best artists in this invitational exhibit.
There are oil paintings by Robert Barrett, Floyd Breinholt, Valoy Eaton, Gary Kapp, Elva Malin, A.D. Shaw, Gary Smith and Kimbal Warren; watercolors by Norma Forsberg, Nancy Lund, Ian Ramsay and Al Rounds; pastels by Marilee Campbell and Lou Jene Carter; and sculptures by Jerry Anderson, Blair Buswell, Avard Fairbanks, Florence Hansen, Dennis Smith, Grant Speed and Stan Wanlass - to name a few.
The pageant also features work by promising young artists. One exhibition hall is filled with art by elementary and secondary school students. Second grader Sarah Wilde and senior Michael Coleman won the Best-of-Show prizes. But the big winners are four high school seniors who won $2,500 in art scholarships. The first place prize of $1,000 went to David Young of Timpview High School. Winning $500 scholarships were Sun-Young Kim of Provo High; Kenny Yang, also of Provo High; and Shawn Hansen of Roy High.
Prints, a popular and very affordable part of the art exhibition, feature art works by Dawna Barton, Randy Blackburn, Lou Jene Carter, Bruce Cheever, Valoy Eaton, Gary Kapp, Al Rounds, and others.
Craft lovers who arrive early enjoy browsing through the boutique sponsored by the Pageant Guild. In addition, at 7 p.m. and for only $1, patrons can participate in a backstage seminar where they learn all about casting, costuming, scenic design, and makeup.
Basically the same format has been used as in years past. However, the pre-show seminars that featured musicians, dancers and visual artists have been discontinued this year, much to the disappointment of a number of patrons.
However, a positive addition to the Pageant is the use of colored slides in the tableau-vivant performance. One set of slides describe the life and works of Maxfield Parish, the painter of "The Garden of Allah"; the other set talks about Sister Maria Innocenntia Hummel and the producing of the Goebel Porcelains. This approach not only gives variety to the production, but adds fascinating information to this course in art appreciation.
There are only two "living pictures" productions in the United States. The biggest one is held annually in Laguna Beach, California. And the inspiration for the Utah Pageant of the Arts originated there.
In 1972, a small committee from American Fork visited Laguna's outdoor pageant. When they returned, they borrowed $4,000 from American Fork City and put together their own production.
There were only four performances that first year, but that number soon grew to eight. Now the pageant runs for six weeks. And this summer production has expanded to workshops in dance, music and drama, in addition to performances by the Pageant Symphony and Youth Symphony orchestras, statewide youth art competitions, and art scholarships.
The 1988 production of Utah Pageant of the Arts continues through July 23. Tickets are on sale at the Pageant Box Office, 54 East Main, American Fork. Telephone orders are honored from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m on weekdays (756-3505). Prices are $8 for side sections and $11 for the center section. Curtain time is 8 p.m. Professional and youth art exhibits are included in the ticket price.