Washington's Resource theater, the smallest of the three theaters controlled by the Source Theatre Company on 14th Street NW, began moving out of its small building yesterday under threat of eviction. The theater owes more than $12,000 in back rent, according to both a theater spokesman and the managing agent for the property.

"We're packing up the Resource today," said artistic director Bart Whiteman, who is also being evicted from an apartment he occupied above the theater. "This is the smallest and roughest of our three theaters, so this is not as critical as last summer's battle, but what it means is that there will be one less theater in Washington."

Last summer the Source's Warehouse Rep theater survived an order to vacate its premises by raising enough money to buy the space. The Resource theater is the only one of the three company theaters that rents its space.

Whiteman said he did not expect the Resource to reopen at a new location.

Notice of the landlord's intent to evict the theater came this week, according to theater spokeswoman Lisa Palley. Productions of two one-act plays, "Homer" and "Come Sit by Me" closed a week and a half ago because of insufficient ticket sales after three weeks of performances, Whiteman said.

Another play, "Gallows Humor," closed during previews three weeks ago.

The Source Theatre Company came to 14th Street five years ago and has been one of the pioneers in the revitalization of the blocks between R and T streets NW. The 40-seat Resource theater was created a year and a half ago, but the company had used the space at 1716 14th St. as a rehearsal and storage space prior to that.

Rental agent Stephen Mowbray said the building owners, Washington sculptors Barbara Hersberg and Sarah Yerkes, had done "everything humanly possible to assist the theater, but it comes down to the fact that these two people could not afford to subsidize a theater."

Whiteman said he had contacted the building's owners repeatedly to try and work out an arrangement, but got no response. "I have no ill will toward the owners. There's no question that we owe them the money. But there are two ways to deal with this kind of thing. You can slam the door or you can negotiate a more positive solution."

Washington theater critics have repeatedly said that the Source theater group was stretched too thin and yesterday Whiteman appeared to agree. "I think the writing's on the wall for us that Source cannot afford to maintain three theater spaces. We just don't have the money," Whiteman said.

The eviction, Whiteman said, "will be both good and bad for the Source. It will allow us to consolidate our resources, but it will also mean that we won't be able to experiment as much. There are very few theaters in Washington that are doing new plays now."