The first "hemispheric theater festival," including seven plays from Latin America and Canada, will begin Tuesday, June 5, at the Kennedy Center Terrace and Musical Theater Lab.

Organized by the New York-based Theater of Latin America (TOLA) and funded (so far) by the governments of the United States, Canada, Brazil and Mexico, the festival will begin with a week of perfomances in Washington, followed by two weeks at New York's LaMama Theater and a week of work-shops at the Eugene o'neill Theater Center in Connecticut.

"It really is time that United States theater people get turned on to the wonderful theater being done in Latin America," said the o'neill Center's George White at a news conference held yesterday to announce the program.

"Grupo Pau-Brazil" will open the Terrace Theater's portion of the shedule with "Macunaima," directed by Antunes Filho, an epic adaptation of a classic Brazilian novel (at 7 p.m. June 5 and at 2 and 8 p.m. June 6).

The Theater D'Aujourd'hui of Montreal will follow with Jean-Claude Germain's musical "The Ups and Downs in the life of a Diva" (at 8 p.m. June 7 and at 2 and 8 p.m. June 8).

Chile's "Grupo Ictus" will perform "Cuantos Anos Tiene Un Dia?" ("How Many Years in a Day?") by Sergio Vodanovic (at 8 p.m. June 9 and at 2 and 8 p.m. June 10).

The musical Theater Lab's portion of the schedule will begin with Toronto's Factory Theater Lab doing "Lucky Strike," written and directed by Hrant Alianak (at 8:30 p.m. June 5 and at 2 and 8:30 p.m. June 6).

Tetaro de Los Buenos Ayres will follow with Osvaldo Dragun's "historias Para Ser Contadas" (Stories to Be Told"), a 20-year-old Argentinian classic (at 8 p.m. June 7 and at 7:30 and 10 p.m. June 8).

Teatro Taller de Colombia will present a children's play, "Los Amigos de Candelita," originated by Uruguay's Galpon Theater (at noon June 9).

And the final production will be Mexico's Teatro Repertorio Unam's "Lastima que sea puta," a comtemporary adaptation, by director-translator Juan Jose Gurrola, of John Ford's "'Tis Pity She's a Whore" (at 7 p.m. June 10 and at 2 and 8 p.m. June 11).

The Terrace Theater productions will have simultaneous English translations, but non-Spanish-speakers at theMusical Theater Lab perfomances will have to make do with written English synopses. However, TOLA's artistic director, Joanne Pottlitzer, said that these plays had been chosen without simultaneous translation.

"There's no question in my mind," said Kennedy Center Chairman Roger L. Stevens yesterday, "that the best novels that I've been reading the last few years are from Latin America." A few years from now, he speculated, some of the best theater in the world may come from Latin America, too.