May 21st in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1984, the Los Angeles Times ran a feature on the 3rd annual Pageant of the Arts at J. H. McGaugh Intermediate School the previous week.

On May 2nd, 1984 Jame Lapine’s and Stephen Sondheim’s audacious musical, Sunday in the Park with George premiered on Broadway. The first act told the fictionalized tale of how impressionist painter Georges Seurat created his 1884 masterpiece, “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.” The act climaxes with Seurat bringing all the characters and landscape he’s been sketching into order on the stage “through design, composition, tension, balance, light, and harmony” to create the painting. The musical won two Tonys and a Pulitzer prize.

On the west coast a few weeks later, “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” was also recreated on stage — this time inside the J.H. McGaugh Auditorium and without a big Broadway musical budget or Sondheim score. Students from Kindergarten through the fifth grade had spent a couple months painting the set, and nine and ten year olds in full costume played the roles of the figures in the Seurat painting. Art teacher Shirley Johns and music teacher Sara Magana guided the project with choreography by Jean Parks.

The Pageant of the Arts has become an annual tradition at McGaugh, and the 37th annual show was staged at the end of March this year. No doubt inspired by Laguna Beach’s annual Pageant of the Masters, the Seal Beach Pageant of the Arts is not satisfied with static recreations of works of art with living actors posing in tableaux vivant (that’s French for living pictures). Our Pageant of the Arts will usually focuses on on a single artist each year and combines music, dance, and spoken commentary. The result is ambitious, colorful, and great fun.– Michael Dobkins


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