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June 06, 1996


About eight years ago, Spencer the Gardener played at Charlie's in Ventura and drew about 20 people. A few months later, this Santa Barbara dance band was packing the place. These days, STG is packing larger venues from the Bay Area to the border with its species of dance music that Spencer himself calls "spy movie music at the beach." There's no beach, but STG will make its Camarillo debut at The Stage. Punctual Russ will open.

One of those do-it-yourself kinds of bands, Spencer Barnitz and his buds--including original bandmate, trumpeter Nathan Birkey--have built a sizable following by touring relentlessly and have recorded three albums so far, and have enough songs for three more. Meanwhile, The Stage, which opened last Halloween, has filled a need in Camarillo for those seeking something to do at night. "Come rage at The Stage," says owner Dave Cotner.

Hot tip: Spencer will draw more than 20 people, so don't be late for this 9 p.m. show. The Stage is in a strip mall at 2258 Pickwick Street. The show will cost you $5. Call 383-0286 to find out more.


If you want a big dose of cultural diversity, take in the Children's International Arts Festival at Ventura's Mission Park.

The 15th annual installment will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Last year, the festival pulled in about 5,000 people. Once again, the park will be transformed into a cultural mecca with more than 16 booths staffed by professional artists where kids can dabble in Egyptian block painting, kite making, East Asian brush painting, quilt making, and shadow puppets.

The theater group Will & Company will present "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and new this year is the drum group Sona Sane, performing West African music. Conjunto Hueyapan will play music from the Veracruz area of Mexico, and the Ventura Klezmer Band will do Eastern European folk music. For more information, call 658-4726.


Can music change the world? There are more than a few believers out there who think it can. Two of them are pianist Sasha Toperich and violinist Nabil Azzam, who will combine their musical energies for the "Building Bridges: A Concert For Peace" program at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center.

Presented by the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity and the Israeli Consulate, Toperich and Azzam will perform a shared program of Western, Israeli and Arabic classical music at 7 p.m. Both musicians have impressive resumes: Toperich, an award-winning virtuoso from Jerusalem is on a goodwill tour of North America; Azzam, a noted Israeli-Arab composer and ethnomusicologist who holds a doctorate, has served as conductor of the Galilee Orchestra in Nazareth and is founder of the Nazareth Conservatory of Music.

The venue is at 3050 Los Angeles Ave. Tickets: $18, $14 senior citizens, students, $12 children 12 and under. Information: 581-2714.


* The Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera will pay homage to the musicals of the 1930s with its season-ending production when it opens Friday with George and Ira Gershwin's "Crazy for You" at the Granada Theatre. Inspired by the Gershwins' hit musical comedy "Girl Crazy," the Light Opera's staging here includes the tunes "Bidin' My Time," "Embraceable You," "I Got Rhythm" and other Gershwin nuggets. Garnering a Tony Award for best musical in 1992, the all-singing, all-dancing production showcases a tap-dance extravaganza reminiscent of "42nd Street." Show times: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, plus 3 p.m. June 12. The venue is at 1216 State St. Tickets: $15-$35; senior citizen, student and child discounts available for some performances. Information: (800) 366-6064.

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