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Part of Santa Barbara’s charm is its robust and entertaining arts scene, as this weekend demonstrates.

'Spirit' auditions

In advance of this summer’s Old Spanish Days celebration, 20 talented Spanish dancers aged 8 to 20 will compete for the coveted honor of “Spirit of Fiesta” and “Junior Spirit of Fiesta” on Saturday starting at noon at La Cumbre Junior High School. These finalists are judged on a live on-stage interview as well their dancing, and winners are featured performers at Fiesta events. Admission is $30 and includes a post-audition reception with the artists. (

Princess Weekend

Rain is good for frogs, but bad for princesses, so the Santa Barbara Zoo’s Princess Weekend was rescheduled to Saturday and Sunday due to rainy conditions in March. This charming event uses the lure of a dress-up party to talk about serious conservation issues facing the world’s amphibians. On hand are the zoo’s milky frog, marine toad, blue tongue skink and caiman lizard, among others. Frog kissing is optional.

Young royalty meet princesses like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, mermaids, fairies and other fairy-tale characters; get makeovers from Santa Barbara City College cosmetology students; show off their moves at a dance party; and much more. Boys are also welcome, be they dressed as knights, princes, cowboys, or pirates. Activities are included with zoo admission. (962-5339,


An exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art now features pictorial representations of “Chushingura” (“The Treasury of Loyal Retainers”), one of Japan’s most revered stories of samurai loyalty and revenge. Woodblock prints, illustrated books and paintings from the late 18th through the 19th centuries are on view -- and they are stunning in their range and their beauty. See it through June 10 for only $5 -- museum admissions are half off during their current renovation. (963-4364,

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Pulitzer winner

The scene is Hazlehurst, Mississippi, where three sisters gather to await news of the family patriarch, their grandfather, who is living out his last hours in the local hospital. Made famous by the 1987 movie starring Diane Keaton and Sissy Spacek, “Crimes of the Heart” was originally a play, and won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. This funny and touching play, presented by the Theatre Group at Santa Barbara City College, opens Friday and runs through April 28. Tickets start at $24 general admission. (965-5935,

'Invisible Hand'

Ayad Akhtar won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “Disgraced,” a look at race, identity and capitalism played out in a Manhattan apartment. His next play, “Invisible Hand,” which opens Saturday at Ensemble Theatre Company, explores the same issues, but is a thriller set in Pakistan. An American investment banker is kidnapped by Islamic fanatics. Can he manipulate the stock market to meet his own ransom? A co-production with the English Theater Frankfurt, “Invisible Hand” runs at the New Vic Theatre through April 29 before moving to Germany. Tickets range from $20 to $70. (965-5400,

Julia McHugh can be reached at