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More masterpieces! Lancaster expands its 'living art' show

After a one-year hiatus from the originally named Living Masterpieces because of lack of funding, the Lancaster High School Art Honor Society is coming back with a bang -- with a new name, Pageant of the Masters, and an ambitious total of eight "living" art works.

Club adviser Nancy Mariani came to the group in the fall after seeing the Pageant of the Masters performance in Laguna Beach, Calif. "This is the original 'live art' performance which has been staged for the past 80 years in Laguna Beach by a group of artists and community residents," said Mariani. Every day all summer, some 40 live artworks are presented "on a hillside in an amphitheater at night. Some are sculptures and others are paintings."

Inspired by Mariani's description of the Laguna Beach event, Art Honor Society members started to brainstorm and find pieces that would be unique and easy enough to bring to life.

The pageant puts real people, with makeup and costumes, in famous works of art, bringing them to life, while giving background on the artists and the works themselves.

Along with four classic paintings, the show will have four vintage posters where the performers will have half their bodies sticking out of the wooden piece and the other half hidden and bracing themselves behind the artwork.

Art Honors Vice President Lena Scapillato will dance to "Candy Man" in the vintage piece "Jacquin" by Leonetto Cappiello from 1930. Vicky Staszak will be a green goblin in Cappiello's "Maurin Quina," while Samantha Forsyth will twirl batons. Lena says: "Whether you are in a vintage poster, classic piece, or just helping out, we are all under pressure." Swimmer Veronica Bassano will dress as a 1920s girl in an Urgelles work called "The Dunes Beaches." Samantha Hojczyk will star in the "Madama Butterfly" poster by Leopoldo Metlicovitz.

Emulating the Laguna Beach performance, the club decided to build a ramp for the middle ground for the larger pieces. This construction will create an effect of a two-dimensional look while still using three-dimensional elements to create it. The art society also enlisted fathers of art students to build the bench and two boats for three of the pieces. Alyssa Crane, Erin Baccari and Jessica Bundy will portray the Victorians in togas in Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's "Coign of Vantage." Zach Garland will portray Paul Helleu and Nicole Schmidt, his wife, in John Singer Sargent's "Paul Helleu Sketching With His Wife." Emily Brown, Nikki Dzimira, Coleen Boyd, Brian Peck and Marissa Volpini will be the guests at a picnic in James Tissot's "Holiday (The Picnic)."

"After hearing the story of Mrs. Mariani's trip, we knew we had a lot to achieve to make this year bigger and better than ever," said treasurer Alyssa Crane.

Two narrators will take the audience back in time, giving information on the works as they are presented. Since this year marks the 20th anniversary of Andy Warhol's death, Mike Baccari will narrate as Warhol, sharing the stage with Genevieve Fahey as Warhol's longtime friend, Tama Janowitz. Mariani got this idea for the storyline from an article in Bazaar magazine that she happened to be reading while getting her hair cut. Instantly, she knew she wanted to honor Warhol through Janowitz's words and make him the narrator for the show.

The project has taken months of work. "All the meetings we have just goes to show how dedicated we are and how much we love art," said Alyssa's sister, Chelsea Crane. In the month of April, Art Honor Society members have met for more than 13 hours a week all leading up to the two in-school performances Friday and at the Festival of the Arts at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. this Saturday.

After the festival, the society will still have to brush up on the skits in order to participate in Art Alive on the back lawn of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 2.

Nicole Schmidt likes to think: "Despite all the work we do on Wednesdays and Saturdays, there is always the chicken finger pizza to look forward to at noon!"

Lancaster senior Stephanie Tartick is president of Art Honor Society. She will portray "The Lady of Shalott" in John William Waterhouse's 1888 painting in the Pageant of the Masters.

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