Three weeks after the New Playwrights' Theatre announced that it would close if $250,000 were not raised in 90 days, the beleaguered theater has received gifts and pledges totaling $81,000, according to artistic director Arthur Bartow.

"That's the easy part," said Bartow yesterday. "This is money from people who know us already, see the need and give immediately. But we still have a lot of work before us to make the rest of it happen."

Among the largest gifts, Bartow cited a $25,000 challenge grant from an anonymous Washington developer, who will contribute that sum when the campaign total hits the $225,000 mark; $15,000 from the April Trust; $5,000 from The Washington Post; and $2,000 each from the National Bank of Commerce and the McLachlen National Bank.

A direct mail campaign to individual supporters of the theater has brought in $11,000 so far, and Arena Stage recently took up a collection among its staff and members, raising about $1,000 for New Playwrights'. "We just decided that we wanted to send, if not a lot of money, at least a message," said Arena's public relations and marketing director, Richard Bryant.

Earlier this week, New Playwrights' hired local fund-raiser Eugene Funderburke to coordinate the campaign. In addition, Bartow said that an independent group, Friends of New Playwrights' Theatre, has been formed to take the theater's case to the Washington business community.

"A lot of the news out of here has been bad. But for the first time in three months, I feel encouraged that we are going to make our goal and that this theater will go on and grow," Bartow said.

The red-brick theater at 1742 Church St. NW is currently dark. Beginning March 1, the facility will house the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's production of "Looking Glass." New Playwrights' own season will resume on April 16.