Theatrical moments

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One of the frustrations of theater, which I love, is the inability to stop time. Actors in costumes and make-up whirl around a stage involving us, hopefully, in their dialog and action. The magic is in the energy and, perhaps, the fact that we can’t freeze frame and rewind. We have to be there.

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Josh Lehrer, "Jordan Donica," 2017
Silver gelatin print, 20 x 16 inches
Courtesy the artist and Diane Rosenstein Gallery

Here are three shows that offer a closer examination, beginning with Hamilton. Artist Josh Lehrer managed to convince the cast of that hit musical, which just opened at the Pantages, to sit for portraits as their personae dramatica. Creator Lin Manuel Miranda is a recognized celebrity but the rest of the actors can be seen here in relaxed, sincere poses that allow us to absorb their appearances and appurtenances such as the buttons on their coats or bows on their dresses. Lehrer took the images using antique cameras and lenses and printed them in black and white to get a better feel of a time in the past. They are on view in My Shot: Portraits from Hamilton at Diane Rosenstein Gallery until this Saturday, August 26, and a portion of the sales goes to CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in LA.

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Marc Chagall, Costume for The Firebird: Blue-and-Yellow Monster from Koschei's Palace Guard, 1945
Wool/synthetic knit with polyurethane, wool/synthetic knit appliqués, wood beads, silk plain weave (chiffon), and animal hair New York City Ballet, New York
© 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris
Photo © 2017 Museum Associates/LACMA

Another opportunity for a close-up view is Chagall:Fantasies for the Stage at LACMA. My low expectations were completely upended after seeing in person the crazy creativity of the artist’s costumes for The Firebird, The Magic Flute and other musical productions. Arranged here by curator Stephanie Barron with the opera director Yuval Sharon, it lives up to the word "fantasy" in the title. Again, there would be no opportunity to immerse yourself in each amazing detail if watching the actual production. Even if you are familiar with the productive modern painter, you’ll see a delightful other side to his work. It is on view through January 7, 2018.

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Two oil paintings re-created in the 2017 Pageant of the Masters
"Sir William Hamilton" by Sir Joshua Reynolds and
"Emma Hart, Lady Hamilton as Circe" by George Romney

The freezing of time comes to mind at Pageant of the Masters, now in its 85th season at Laguna Beach. I’m headed there myself this weekend since August 31 is the last show of the summer. Two casts of over 100 volunteers are arrayed in complex costumes, hair-dos and make-up. When they freeze in position, through the wonder of theatrical illusion, they recreate the compositions of paintings or sculpture from the age of antiquity to the modern era. You watch and wonder, how do they do it?