The D.C. Youth Ensemble, a group of performers aged 5 to 35, will present two interesting productions. Saturday at 6 p.m., in Gallaudet College's Ely Center, the group will perform an original two-act musical called "Trading My Designer Brain for a JCPenney Heart." The play deals with the question of whether designer labels are shaping the values of today's youth.

On Aug. 22 at 7 p.m., the D.C. Youth Ensemble and Minstrelsy will present an authentic minstrel show called "Days Long Gone By" at St. Martin's Church, 1908 North Capitol St. NW. The program will be based on black minstrel shows from the1830s to 1900.

Carol Foster, a teacher and artistic director of the ensemble, says minstrel shows are rarely performed today because they are controversial for both blacks and whites. "Many blacks are ashamed of this part in their history," says Foster. "We are fortunate that we have found a way to present it that has dignity and style."

Foster adds that black minstrels made important contributions to American musical theater. "Had there not been black minstrels," she says, "there would not have been 'A Chorus Line.' " For more information, call 393-3293.