LAGUNA BEACH, CA--(Marketwire - March 3, 2011) - This past August 31st -- closing night for "Eat, Drink and Be Merry," the 2010 Pageant of the Masters, the world-famous celebration of art in tableaux vivants -- "living pictures" -- also marked the final performance for Pageant narrator Skip Conover, who recently announced his retirement to Pageant and Festival staff.

Conover made his debut as narrator behind the microphone in his booth at the back of the Irvine Bowl in the summer of 1994. He was replacing Thurl Ravenscroft, who had enjoyed 20 years as the "voice of the Pageant" and was beloved for his vocal work for Disney and as the voice of Kellogg's "Tony the Tiger." Ravenscroft was an inspiration to Conover, a top-notch voice-over professional in his right happily acknowledged that Ravenscroft was an inspiration to him. "Thurl was my hero," Conover said.

Beginning that summer, Conover happily took on the demanding task of performing his Pageant narration duties every night during runs that averaged nearly 60 consecutive nights for the next 17 seasons. A tribute to his amazing stamina and professionalism, Conover never missed a single show in all those years, logging more than 1,000 Pageant performances behind the microphone. Invariably, audiences continued to be surprised when they found out the narration they were hearing was, in fact, being performed live every night.

For Conover, the decision to retire was not an easy one. But, citing health issues, chronic back pain in particular, he finally had to admit it was time to end his run at the Pageant. Pageant director Diane Challis Davy saluted her longtime narrator: "Skip is of a rare breed of voice artists. He knows how to charm an audience, how to make them feel comfortable. He's like a friend or a confidante. He never 'lectured' the audience, and yet he managed to inform them. And like a true professional, he made it seem easy."

Veteran scriptwriter Dan Duling, who wrote for both Ravenscroft and Conover, confirmed Challis Davy's assessment: "Skip was a total pro with a great voice. But, even more remarkable was his conversational quality and his wonderful ability to tell stories with warmth and humor. He related to the script like a musician, intuitively sensing how it could complement the musical underscoring. Our collaboration was a joy from start to finish." Conover, who has lived in Nevada for the past several years, wrote a letter to the Pageant volunteers and staff to share with them the difficulty of his decision and his abiding love and regard for the Pageant. "The Pageant became so much a part of our lives," he wrote. "We will sorely miss the camaraderie and friendship of you all. The pride I felt each night as I began my trek up to the booth [came from] knowing that a unique and gifted group of people had my back, so it was simply a matter of sewing together a beautiful tapestry using the orchestra as my thread and giving every audience the thrill of a lifetime." He concluded, "We both hope and pray the Pageant will continue to shine like the beautiful and unique star that it is."

Who will replace Conover for the 2011 Pageant, "Only Make Believe"? Challis Davy would only say that negotiations for a new narrator are ongoing and an announcement will be made as soon as there's a signed contract.

The Pageant of the Masters will be performed nightly from July 7 through August 31. Tickets for Only Make Believe, the 2011 Pageant of the Masters, are available at the Festival of Arts box office or online at For further information, call 949-497-6852, or toll free 800-487-3378.

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Sharbie Higuchi
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(949) 464-4282