Happy Birthday, Alexandria!

The USA/Alexandria Birthday Celebration commemorates the City of Alexandria's 256th birthday and America's 229th Saturday at Oronoco Bay Park, on the Potomac at Union and Pendleton streets. Entertainment and vendor sales begin at 6; a ceremony and cake-cutting by city officials starts at 7:30; and at 9 the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra plays swing music from the big-band era and Tchaikovsky's "1812" Overture. Fireworks over the river begin at 10. Admission is free. Call 703-838-4200 or 703-883-4686.

Big Hair in Charm City

Sixteen-year-old Tracy Turnblad dreams of stardom on a TV teen dance show in "Hairspray," the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical fantasy set in 1960s Baltimore, opening Wednesday at 7:30 in the Kennedy Center Opera House (Metro: Foggy Bottom-GWU, with free shuttles). The run continues through Aug. 21. Tickets cost $35 to $93. Call 202-467-4600. See story on Page 28.

Sounds of Summer

* The Brooks Tegler Big Band and the J Street Jumpers face off for "Big Band/Small Band Swing Night," the season's final free "Weekend's Weekends" concert sponsored by The Washington Post, Friday at 7:30 at Carter Barron Amphitheatre, 16th Street and Colorado Avenue NW. Free tickets will be released Friday at 8:30 a.m. at The Post, 1150 15th St. NW, and at noon at the Carter Barron box office. Call 202-334-4748. See story on Page 5.

* The free summer concert series at Fort Dupont Park, Minnesota Avenue and Randle Circle SE, opens Saturday at 8 with a show by Russell Thompkins Jr. & the New Stylistics and Skip Mahoney & the Casuals. Concerts continue weekly through Aug. 13. No tickets are needed. Call 202-426-5961.

* The City of Fairfax Band hosts its annual free young people's concert Thursday at 7:30 in the Veterans Amphitheater at Fairfax City Hall, 10455 Armstrong St., featuring children's favorites and other popular music. John Lyon is the host. Ice cream will be served. Call 703-757-0220.

A Quartet of New Plays

The Contemporary American Theater Festival is staging four new plays by American playwrights during its 15th season, opening Friday on the campus of Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va. They are "The God of Hell," Sam Shepard's story of a stranger who bears red, white and blue cookies while he searches for a fugitive on a Wisconsin farm; "American Tet," in which death tolls from Iraq crack the emotional armor of a career military wife; "Sonia Flew," in which a woman who fled Castro's Cuba as a child is confronted about her worldview by her Ivy League son; and "Father Joy," a comic fable about a young woman who contemplates a romance with her sculpture professor while her father fades away and her mother vacuums furiously. Performances continue in repertory through July 31 in the Frank Center and Studio Theater. Tickets cost $28 to $33, with student, senior and package discounts. Call 304-876-3473 or 800-999-2283, or visit www.catf.org. See story on Page 22.

Songs of America

The eighth annual Common Ground on the Hill Music and Arts Festival presents folk, bluegrass and other traditional musicians and dancers Saturday from 10 to 8 and Sunday from 10 to 5 on four outdoor stages at the Carroll County Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St., Westminster, Md., near routes 140 and 27. Headliners include Hot Tuna with Jorma Kaukonen & Jack Casady, Tom Chapin, Guy Davis, Walt Michael, Karen Ashbrook, Robin Bullock, Sankofa African Dance Theater and the Footworks dance troupe. Tickets cost $25 Saturday and $20 Sunday, or $40 for the weekend, with senior, teen and children's discounts. Call 410-857-2771 or visit www.commongroundonthehill.org.

Name Your Price at Woolly

Still settling in to its new home at 641 D St. NW, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company opens "The Clean House," a new drama by Sarah Ruhl in which two sisters' lives are transformed by their different approaches to the problem of house cleaning, with "pay-what-you-can" previews Monday and Tuesday at 8. The bargain seats go on sale at the box office each night at 6:45. Shows continue through Aug. 14; regular prices are $30 to $48. Call 202-393-3939.

Cole Porter at Wolf Trap

Marvin Hamlisch conducts the National Symphony Orchestra in "A Cole Porter Celebration" Friday at 8:15 in the Filene Center at Wolf Trap Park, 1551 Trap Rd., Vienna. Soprano Lisa Vroman, mezzo-soprano Rachel York,

tenor J. Mark McVey and baritone Jason Graae will sing classic tunes from "Anything Goes," "Kiss Me, Kate" and Porter's other Broadway hits. Tickets cost $28 to $38 inside, $18 on the lawn, from Tickets.com. To

order, call 703-218-6500 (service charges added); for information, call 703-255-1860.

This Is No Jest

The Summer Opera Theatre Company concludes its season with Verdi's "Rigoletto," opening Sunday at 2:30 in the Hartke Theatre, on the edge of the Catholic University campus at 3801 Harewood Rd. NE. The story of the hunchbacked court jester who schemes to murder a lecherous duke will be repeated Wednesday and July 15 at 7:30 and July 17 at 2:30. Most tickets cost $45 to $65, with student discounts. A $110 ticket includes a "meet-the-artists" reception after the opening matinee. $25 rush seats will be sold 30 minutes before each performance. Call 202-319-4000.

-- Compiled by Barry Barriere

Jorma Kaukonen headlines the Com- mon Ground festival in Westminster.