About 150 local professional actors attended an open forum of a newly formed Actors' Center last night to discuss how to make local theaters more aware of the local pool of professional actors.

"The question, 'Why aren't you in New York?' no longer applies," said actor Ted Parker at the forum, held at Ford's Theatre.

Local actors -- members of Actors Equity Association, the actors' union, as well as nonmembers -- face a severe shortage of acting jobs and a tendency for few local shows to be cast locally. Most of the big shows in the big theaters here are road shows cast in New York.

"The idea of the center is to bring actors together and have enough communication so when there is a job in Washington it will give all the actors a chance to audition," said Parker. "We want to show producers that a) they'll save time and b) they'll save money if they do recruiting here."

One example, said actor Irv Zift, is the resident theater company that Kennedy Center head Roger Stevens plans for the Center's Eisenhower Theater for next season. "I called Ralph Allen [ a director now working with Stevens at the Center]," said Ziff, "and told him he doesn't have to cast a theater company in New York. He can cast right here." Ziffs recent local work includes standing in for actor Harvey Korman in the film, "First Family," and the part of an undertaker in the movie, "First Monday in October," parts of which were filmed here a few weeks ago.

The Actors' Center was the brainchild of actress Celia Clark, who moved to Washington last March to act in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," which played at Ford's. The center, which is headed by a steering committee including Clark, has been given some space by the Library Theatre, headquartered in the renovated Lansburgh's building. "We'll have a bulletin board there tomorrow morning, an inbox for mail and eventually a newsletter," said Clark last night.

"And this is not only young aspiring actors," said Ziff, who is 50 and estimated the age range at last night's gathering to be 19 to 70.

"Mature, we like to say," added 56-year-old actress Alice O'connor with a chuckle.