THE HAT'S CIRCLE OF RED FEATHERS resembles an unfolded rose--lush and beautiful, tempting to touch. This elaborate headdress from Cameroon starts the small but enticing exhibit "Hats Off! A Salute to African Headwear" at the National Museum of African Art. The 14 hats from the museum's permanent collection come in all shapes and sizes and include a small cap of embroidered cloth and a towering pile of basketlike shapes. On the helmet worn by the Lega peoples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the tail of elephant hair signifies strength while the covering of glossy white cowrie shells symbolizes wealth. This exhibit is kid-friendly, with crayons for drawing and a touchable wall display of different fabrics and decorative materials, including leopard claws.
At the Museum of African Art, 950 Independence Ave. SW. Through Dec. 26. Free. 202-357-2700.
THE AFRICAN CONTINUUM Theatre Company will produce staged readings of "the 10 most important plays by African American playwrights in the 20th century" beginning Wednesday night. Called the Century Project, the series will include such classics as the early musical "In Dahomey," the stage adaptation of "Native Son," "The Dutchman" and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Among the directors are Tom Jones, Jennifer L. Nelson and John L. Moore III.
At Living Stage, 14th and T streets NW. Wednesday through Dec. 10. Shows run Monday through Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. (The Dec. 7 location will be different; call for information.) Free, but donations requested. 202-529-5763.
THE ARCHIVE OF FOLK CULTURE, founded at the Library of Congress in 1928 to collect American folk music, was transformed long ago into one of the world's largest collections of ethnographic documentary materials. It has provided source materials for scholars and music fans alike: Just ask Stephen Wade, one of the archives' most active users and supporters long before storming Washington years ago with his "Banjo Dancing." On Wednesday, Wade will join in a benefit concert for the Archive of Folk Culture. Performers include Pete Seeger, Christine Balfa and Dirk Powell, Geno Delofose, Hazel Dickens and Dudley Connell, Alan Jabbour, the gospel group Prophecy and members of the family of Henry Reed, the West Virginia fiddler whose name will adorn the Fund for Folk Artists at the library's American Folklife Center.
At the State Theater, 220 Washington St., Falls Church. Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. $25. Tickets are available by phone, 202-835-3655, or through the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance Web site at www.folk.org. For information, call 202-707-5510.
WHAT NEW YEAR'S EVE BASH would be complete without glitter, spangles and naked blow-up dolls? Certainly not Susan Marshall's, whose tribute to the dwindling millennium, "The Descent Beckons," skewers contemporary pop culture and the part it plays in societal ills. Marshall is customarily considered a serious-minded, contemplative choreographer, but in this work, less than an hour long, she has fun and makes a point, incorporating modern dance, cabaret, vaudeville and Vegas--all emceed by performance artist Lisa Kron.
At George Mason University's Center for the Arts Concert Hall, Braddock Road and Route 123. Saturday at 8 p.m. (Pre-performance discussion at 7:15 p.m.) $25-$35. 703-218-6500.
THE 10TH ANNUAL WASHINGTON Jewish Film Festival gets underway Thursday, beginning a 10-day run (through Dec. 12) at four separate venues around the city. The movies, as always, are eclectic and challenging, including the first version of "Jacob the Liar" (the one without Robin Williams); Aviva Kempner's biography of a ballplayer, "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg"; and an encounter with the reputedly vain and narcissistic novelist Philip Roth in "The Roth Explosion: Confessions of a Writer." The opening night, at the Lincoln Theatre, features "After the End of the World," directed by Ivan Nichev.
At various sites throughout the area Thursday through Dec. 12. For a complete schedule and ticket information, call 202-518-9400, Ext. 248, or visit the Web site, www.wjff.org.