The Eisenhower Theater's summer schedule is more imaginative than much of the theater's winter programming. Following the current "Master Builder" on July 11 will be a new Alan Ayckbourn comedy, "Absent Friends," with Ann Jackson and Eli Wallach in the same roles they performed at the Long Wharf Theater in April.

Then, expected on Aug. 15, is the American premiere of "Old World." a romantic comedy by Soviet play wright Aleksei Arbuzov, starring Anthony Quayle and Mary Martin. Quayle played the role in London opposite Peggy Ashcroft.

All three plays were planned to play a week at Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut before or after their Kennedy Center runs. Now only "The Master Builder" and "Absent Friends" are expected there, due to casting and scheduling complexities surrounding "Old World," but Westport is still handling the business management for the entire series.

Meanwhile, Arthur Miller's first musical, "Up From Paradise," opens next Tuesday for a two-week run upstairs at the Kennedy Center, in the Musical Theater Lab. Austin Pendleton will star as Adam and Patti Perkins as Eve in this musicalization of Miller's "The Creation of the World and Other Business." Free tickets are available at the Center National Park Service desk, but there are only 100 seats available for each performance.

America's biggest avant-garde theater gathering, the New Theater Festival, begins Saturday at the University of Maryland. Baltimore County. Expected during the 10-day event are 202 performances by 30 companies or soloists, from eight countries.

Arena Stage's Living Stage will participate in the festival at 7 p.m. Saturday through Tuesday. SQUAT, a Hungarian group ejected from its own country, will make its American debut at 9 p.m. Saturday. Other weekend participants will include the American Contemporary Theater, Iowa Theater Lab, Kei Takei, Theater X, Time and Space, Kuku Ryku, Karen Adir, and others. Details at 301-455-3193.

Box office blues: "The Mamet Plays" closed three weeks early at the West End, reflecting sparse attendance and losing quite a bit of money . . . "Mamet" producer Bob Corbett has his finger in a lot of pies, however, and is plunging ahead with plans to present the erstwhile "Sirocco/Bride of Sirocco" troupe at Philadelphia's Cafe Society for an open-ended run.

The group has been disconnected from the New Playwrights' Theater that nurtured it and is now performing under tht title "Red Shoes Walking." Before they leave Washington, however, the Siroccans have been doing Sunday night gigs at the Court Jester in Georgetown. They'll make their farewell to D.C., for awhile at least, at the Court Jester Sunday, beginning at 8:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended.

Two openings tonight: "Voices of Pride," the sequel to last summer's "Courtship of Mary Jones" at Shakespeare & Co's St. Albans Theater, and "Glass," a play about what science has done to/for us, staged by the New Orleans-based Otrabanda Company and written by former Bannockburn resident Mark Dunau, at W.P.A.

Arena's Tom Fichandler has stepped down from the post of president of the League of Resident Theaters (LORT) after six years . . . The Howard University Children's Theater placed first in a drama competition in Dundalk, Ireland . . . Michael A. Del Medico presents the premiere of his one-man show about Maxim Gorki's cojorn in Italy between 1906 and 1913. "This Italy of Yours," Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Library of Congress.