In a town where galas are a way of life, it's almost inconceivable that an institution like 32-year-old Arena Stage could have come so far without one. Yet, as it does with so many of its productions, Arena is going to show everybody how it's really done. On Oct. 31, British playwright Tom Stoppard's big London hit, "On the Razzle," opens under the patronage of British Ambassador Oliver Wright and Lady Wright, and in the by-invitation-only audience are supposed to be Secretary of State George Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. Arena says they've accepted.

Stoppard, who adapted the play from 19th-century playwright Johann Nestroy's "Einen Jux willer Sich Machen," may be there. Thornton Wilder's nephew definitely will be. If you're wondering about the connection, it's that Wilder's "The Matchmaker" was also an adaptation of the Nestroy work. A. Tappan Wilder is a consultant with the George Washington University health maintenance organization. He and his wife live in Chevy Chase.

Afterward, Arena's board and its president, Lee G. Rubinstein, are tossing a party in a tent where guests can pretend they are on stage. Decor is a restaurant scene straight out of the play