Laguna Beach’s famed Pageant of the Masters is strapped for cash and is telling those who purchased advance tickets for the 2020 show that refunds, if available, will take a while.
In an email sent on Thursday, June 25, David Perry, the Festival of Arts president, asked patrons who pre-purchased tickets to consider taking credit toward the 2021 Pageant of the Masters or donating the value of their tickets to the arts organization. Those who intent on a refund should expect a delay.
“You are our loyal patrons and we always want to do the best by you and make you proud of our organization,” Perry wrote. “And now, we have found ourselves in the very uncomfortable and difficult position of asking you to please work with us because we are in a serious cash flow bind. We are very sorry, but we simply cannot meet the demand for refunds at this time. In light of this difficult period, we could really use your help.”
Pageant officials announced on May 11, that this year’s show “Made in America” was canceled due the coronavirus pandemic. Officials made the determination having a mass gathering – the festival plays to thousands nightly over seven weeks – would likely not be possible.
On that same day, pageant officials announced the cancellation to those who pre-purchased tickets. They provided two options: a refund or a donation to the arts organization.
David Johnston, of San Clemente, was among those who had paid ahead. In his case, he paid $300 for three tickets and asked for a refund.
On June 8, he checked in with pageant officials and learned refunds would take longer due to limited staff. The next communication from the pageant was Thursday’s email.
In the email, Perry wrote that pageant preparations were well underway when the coronavirus pandemic abruptly halted things. Half of the sets were built, the script was written, casting was complete and the music was being composed for the summer show. Work and artist selection was also nearly complete for the accompanying Festival of Arts Show. Both shows were being promoted and advertised.
“The impacts of COVID-19 are far-reaching and of a magnitude that could not possibly have been foreseen as the Festival of Arts planned and began selling tickets for the 2020 pageant,” said Sharbie Higuchi, spokesperson for the pageant and festival. “Ticket sales are the primary source of funding to produce the pageant, and at the time the pandemic struck, we had already invested a significant amount of the pre-sale proceeds in preparation for opening in July.”
“In the interest of transparency, we felt it was important to share this information with our patrons and provide them with options: to consider accepting credit for the 2021 pageant, donate the value of their 2020 tickets to the festival, or continue to be patient with us,” she added.
Johnston, who has opted to transfer his tickets to next year’s show, has been going to the Pageant of the Masters on and off for 15 years. He said he enjoys the experience, including having dinner and browsing the stores and boutiques in downtown Laguna Beach.
“I like the overall setting,” he said. “You’re in Laguna, you’re outdoors, it’s the quintessential summer experience.”
Still, he is a bit puzzled by the pageant’s situation.
“I like the organization and what they do,” he said. “But, there’s another part of me that wonders how an organization with thousands of attendees nightly for decades, how they can have such little in the coffer such that they already spent the money before the show even started?”
More than 40,000 tickets sold before announcing the summer cancellations with prices from $15 to $130 each.
“This was not easy for us, but we are confident that with the support of our valued patrons, members and community, the festival will get through this difficult time,” Higuchi said.
Laguna Beach Councilman Peter Blake was disappointed to hear of the festival’s financial difficulties, adding the city gives them a break on their lease.
“I do understand that a lot of money goes into running this organization,” he said. “For those who won’t be here next year or have financial needs because of COVID, I think special provisions should be made.”
Source: Orange County Register