Essex Community College of Baltimore County will be host next month for the Region XI American College Theater Festival, covering colleges of Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

The four productions - to be given Feb. 17-20 in the Essex Communications Center Theater - have been chosen from last fall's area college offerings. One of these will be picked to represent the area in April's national festival in the Kennedy Center.

Thursday, Feb. 17, Anne Arundel Community College will present "You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running." Friday night, Howard University will stage "Tambourines to Glory." Saturday night, the U.S. Naval Academy will perform Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" and Sunday evening Frostberg State College will play "Night of the Iguana."

In some parts of the country the ACTF regional festivals have become strong area events, reports ACTF producer David Young. The four-day event includes seminars and workshops. Authorities on hand will include designer Howard Bay, the Royal Shakespeare Company's Barry Kyle, Gillian Scalici of Broadway's "A Chorus Line," mime Jack Scalici, costumer Ken Hollomon and director Larry Forde.

Details are available from area chairman Robert Kauffman, Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, Md. 21012.

With "Bride of Sirocco" occupying its 1742 Church St. NW stage Wednesdays through Sundays, the New Playrights' Theater is not neglecting its "Work-in-Progress" series Tonight and Tuesday night at 8, a new script, "Revival," by Oklahoma playwright Wayne Lanier, will be explored under the direction of Judlyne Lilly. On Friday and Saturday the Lanier script will move to the small theater of All Souls Unitarian Church, 16th and Harvard streets NW. Details at 232-1122.

Atop the Kennedy Center IBM's "America on Stage" will continue through Sunday.A revised schedule has been issued for the Chautauqua Tent's Eugenia Rawls' performances of "Tallulah." She now will appear Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m.

The Folger Library also will be having special events this week, presenting readings by distinguished American poets. Josephine Jacobsen and May Miller will appear at noon today. The Tuesday noon artists have not been announced, but on Wednesday James Dickey will appear, and on Friday Robert Hayden and Reed Whittmore will share the noon hour. On Thursday noon no one will be trying to take the spotlight from Jimmy Carter two blocks west.

Keith Berger, the mime currently doing the 1977 Chevrolet commercials, has come a long way from the streets of New York, where he found his first public. Now he's to introduce artists appearing in the Kennedy Center's Grand Foyer this week. A favorite on campus tours, Ber-week. A favorite on campus tours, Burger is 24 and his ability to suggest invisible automobiles is a distinct novelty.