GOINGS ON SANTA BARBARA : The Liveliest Skeletons : The Mexican festival El Dia de los Muertos will be celebrated with a month full of events.

Len Evans has more than a few skeletons in the closet. He has skeletons in his living room drinking tequila and skeletons in his kitchen riding horses.

The 47-year-old artist worked out of his Ventura home over the summer painting skeletons engaged in a variety of pastimes in preparation for El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead).

The Mexican festival, dating back to the 16th Century and observed on Nov. 1 and 2, honors the belief that souls live on after death and on this special occasion return to their homes as honored guests. Skeletons and skulls are the traditional imagery for the folk art of El Dia de los Muertos.

Evans says he is not of Mexican heritage. "But I grew up in Southern California so I've always felt like I shared part of the culture," he said.

"I guess that's what my art is--a half-breed bastard. For no matter how proficient I might become in reproducing the forms of Mexican folk art, the end result has been filtered through a full inventory of Anglo precepts and attitudes."

More than a month of events begin Friday with joint celebrations launched by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, the Frances Puccinelli Gallery in Carpinteria and La Casa de la Raza, a Mexican cultural center in Santa Barbara.

An exhibit featuring works by Evans and area artist Joan Gunther, along with traditional Mexican folk art, will open with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. at the gallery, 888 Linden Ave., Carpinteria. (684-6301.)

The Museum of Natural History will have a series of events related to El Dia de los Muertos. Some of the events include: The Ballet Folklorico Ollin presentation of the "Dance of the Dead" Oct. 13. (682-4334.) On Oct. 25, the film "La Ofrenda" looks at Day of the Dead customs. And Dr. Luis Leal, historian and critic, will speak on the Mexican tradition on Nov. 1. Call 682-4711 for additional information.

A few of the events scheduled at La Casa de la Raza are a play and an art exhibit on Oct. 12. There will be a haunted house and scary-face painting for young people on Oct. 31. And on Nov. 2 a Chicano theater group will present a play on the themes of El Dia de los Muertos. For details, call 965-8581.

One of America's liveliest musicals, "Mame," will kick off this year's Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera season Oct. 5 at the Lobero Theater, 33 E. Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara. The classic story is about a spirited and wealthy Manhattan matron who, after inheriting a young nephew from her deceased brother, proceeds to teach him her philosophy: "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death."

Wayne Bryan, winner of an array of directing and acting honors including two L.A. DramaLogue Awards and the Joseph Jefferson Award, is directing the season opener. And Toni Kaye will star as Mame. Kaye performed on the "Carol Burnett Show" for six years and was in the films "Funny Lady," "Pennies From Heaven" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

The show will run through Oct. 28 on Wednesdays and Fridays at 2 and 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. Tickets are $21 and $22.50. Call 963-0761.

Elements of theater, modern dance, mime and clowning are combined in James Donlon's latest one-man performance, "Truck Dog." Donlon, a professional clown, will perform at the Studio Theater at UC Santa Barbara in this piece in which opinions about identity, courage and dreams are expressed by a dog riding through the American West in the back of a truck. Performances are Oct. 2-6 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8. (893-3535.)

Some other messages on identity, courage and dreams can be seen when Spike Lee's films are shown at the Victoria Street Theater. Lee has functioned as writer, director and actor in his films, four of which can be seen this week. "Mo' Better Blues," "Do the Right Thing," "School Daze" and "She's Gotta Have It" will be shown Friday to Wednesday (965-1886.)

The Central Coast Pioneer Days is a three-day celebration that honors the past by offering locals and visitors a chance to participate in some old-fashioned events such as frog-jumping races, spelling bees, ugly pet contests and potato sack races. Plus there will be plenty of food, crafts and carnival rides at the Santa Barbara County Fairgrounds in Santa Maria, Friday through Sunday. (922-4456.)

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