LOIS WEBER, AN ACTRESS WHO LEFT THE STAGE to become a writer, director and producer, became noted for her controversial films about birth control, abortion and other women's issues during the silent era. One of Weber's films, "The Blot," is a 1921 melodrama about an underpaid professor whose wife turns to theft to feed their ailing daughter. Weber is among the female filmmakers honored in "Filming the Twentieth Century: Visions From Women Directors," continuing through Nov. 10 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. "The Lost Garden: The Life and Cinema of Alice Guy-Blache," a documentary about the world's first narrative moviemaker, plays before "The Blot."

--Rita Kempley

At the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Ave. NW. Wednesday, 7 p.m. $5. 202-783-7370.


"RENT" IS RIFE WITH FLAWS, yet Jonathan Larson's rock musical is still a whale of a show. It's "La Boheme" given the "Hair" treatment in the age of AIDS, so stock characters and sentimentality are abundant. But its big heart and raw exuberance trump all that, as does the late Larson's gutsy, deceptively rangy score--here quoting Puccini, there mimicking the Artist's funk, flowing from crunchy guitar songs to synth ballads to heartbreaking gospel laments so fluidly that you wonder what he might have written next. "Rent" ends today at Wolf Trap.

--Nelson Pressley

At Wolf Trap's Filene Center, Vienna. $20-$60. Today at 2 and 8 p.m. 703-218-6500.


LABOR DAY'S EVE marks the return of a popular tradition, the National Symphony Orchestra's outdoor performance on the U.S. Capitol's West Lawn. Overtly patriotic music takes a back seat to popular overtures and marches. John Williams and John Philip Sousa share the bill with music from Russia, France and England. Anthony Aibel conducts.

--Philip Kennicott

On the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Tonight at 8. Free. 202-467-4600.


IN 1916, ARTIST JESSIE WILLCOX SMITH snagged the plum assignment of illustrating a new edition of Charles Kingsley's popular fairy tale "The Water-Babies," first published in 1863. Her fantastical drawings help tell the story of young Tom, a sooty chimney sweep who, by a stroke of fairy luck, becomes a clean, cared-for sea sprite. Smith's images portray an innocently naked Tom (except for a frilly gill around his neck) admiring giant fish, floating on a brick-red buoy and staring at a full moon. Smith, a student of Thomas Eakins, designed numerous magazine and book covers during her long career. But she judged "The Water-Babies" illustrations to be her finest work and donated the 12 paintings to the Library of Congress, where they are on display.

--Nicole Lewis

At the Library of Congress's Swann Gallery, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Through Sept. 18. Free. 202-707-5000.