ARENA STAGE

Arena Stage turns 35 this year.

"Think of it in dog years," says founder and producing director Zelda Fichandler, waxing whimsical. "They're worth seven for every human year. So 35 is very old for an institution -- it's more like 300 years. See, each play is like an archaeological excavation of a life. And if you do 8 to 10 plays a year, that's a lot of life. But somehow, to me it feels younger each year, if that's possible to understand."

On a more down-to-earth level, Fichandler says she is most excited by the expansion of the permanent acting company, which has grown to 18, thanks to a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. And Arena, which can always be counted on to dazzle the eye and ear, will continue its work with some of the most provocative directors and designers in the theater.

Arena's three stages -- the 827-seat Arena, the 514-seat Kreeger and the 180-seat Old Vat Room -- are at Sixth and Maine Avenue SW. Performances in the Arena and Kreeger are Tuesday through Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 7:30, with a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee; tickets are $12.75 to $22.75. Performances in the Old Vat Room are Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 7 and 10 p.m.; Sunday at 7:30 p.m.; tickets are $9.75 Thursdays and Sundays, a dollar more on Friday and Saturday. Call 488-3300.

AVNER THE ECCENTRIC -- An endearing "new vaudeville" clown, at the Kreeger, now through October 6.

THE GOOD PERSON OF SETZUAN -- by Bertolt Brecht, involves a gold- hearted hooker who learns about human nature. Arena, opening October 4.

'NIGHT, MOTHER -- Marsha Norman won a Pulitzer for this drama of a daughter who informs her mother she is preparing to kill herself. Kreeger, October 18 to December 8.

WOMEN AND WATER -- the newest in John Guare's "Lydie Breeze" tetralogy, begins after the Civil War. Arena, November 29.

THE REGARD OF FLIGHT -- promises more "new vaudeville" fun from comic Bill Irwin. Kreeger, December 13 to January 12.

RESTORATION -- by British playwright Edward Bond. Arena, January 17.

THE WILD DUCK -- by Henrik Ibsen, will be directed by Romanian director Lucian Pintilie, whose outrageous "Tartuffe" literally brought down the house last year. Kreeger, February 28.

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY -- by Philip Barry, follows two society reporters trying to cover socialite Tracy Lord's wedding. Arena, March 21.

OLD TIMES -- by Harold Pinter, will be directed by Garland Wright, recently named artistic associate at Arena. Kreeger, May 9.

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW -- Douglas C. Wager directs the waspishly witty Shakespearean comedy. Arena, May 23.

BANJO DANCING -- Stephen Wade's eternally amusing show of tale-telling and banjo-plunking continues at the Old Vat Room. It's the longest-running shw in Washington -- six years in January.

NATIONAL THEATER

The venerable -- 150 years old this year -- National Theater "has clearly become the most successful legitimate theater and the most sought after by producers -- outside of the city of New York." So says Shubert Organization president Bernard Jacobs. Looks like he's right on the money.

The Shubert Organization has been managing the historic National since 1980, and as a result of the National's $6 million renovation and the Shubert's booking clout, Washington now boasts the best and the brightest of the Broadway (and Broadway-bound) blockbusters. And the National Theater Corporation is making profits in the six-figure range. That kind of mutual benefit is all too rare in the theater these days.

The 1,680-seat National Theater is at 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Tickets are $22.50 to $40; performances are Tuesday through Sunday, 8 p.m.; matinees Saturday 2 p.m., Sunday 2:30 p.m. Call 554-1900.

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES -- by Jerry Herman, book by Harvey Fierstein, direction by Arthur Laurents (now through December).

SOCIAL SECURITY -- a new comedy about an art dealer, with Marlo Thomas, directed by Mike Nichols (January through mid-February).

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT -- starring Jack Lemmon in Eugene O'Neill's play, directed by Jonathan Miller (March through mid-April).

DREAMGIRLS -- a thinly veiled version of the Supremes story, with stylish direction and choreography by Michael Bennett (April 15 through mid-June).

BILOXI BLUES -- Neil Simon's funny and surprisingly moving sequel to "Brighton Beach Memoirs," in which Simon's alter ego Eugene Morris Jerome joins the Army (opening late June).

In the more distant future, it looks like the National will get the premiere of Neil Simon's "Broadway Bound," the third in his autobiographical trilogy. And the much-anticipated "Chess," directed by Michael Bennett, will make its American premiere at the National in January 1987.

AMERICAN NATIONAL THEATER

Yes, he's young. But he's often wise. He's just as frequently full of it. One thing is certain: you know his name.

He's Peter Sellars, director of the new American National Theater at the Kennedy Center, and he himself is one of the best shows in town.

ANT and Sellars had the whole world watching Washington last season. There was his startling "Count of Monte Cristo," the massive revival of "The Iceman Cometh," a novel subscription series, a Free Theater in the Theater Lab (which was the hottest ticket in town this summer), and the importing of important international and regional theater groups. It seemed everyone in town, whether they had seen the shows or not, had quickly formed an opinion about Peter Sellars, whose directing code seems to be "all things in excess."

Sellars loves it.

As for ANT's upcoming season, Sellars is characteristically cryptic. Since his planned October revival of Robert Sherwood's "Idiot's Deligh" has been postponed till the new year, Sellars is scrambling a bit to get a season together. In November and December ANT will borrow New Playwrights Theater as a ''satellite stage" to sponsor the appearances of two New York avant-garde attractions. And Sellars' first Eisenhower Theater production, which he will direct, is due in early November. He also promises to produce at least a dozen shows by next September.

The ANT's home base, the Eisenhower Theater, seats 1,100. Tickets are $15 to 25 on weekdays, $17 to $27 on weekends; new ANT membership cards are available for purchase, which will give the bearer a $5 discount on all tickets. Performances are Monday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Call 254-7400.

DRAMATIC MONOLOGUES -- by Adrienne Kennedy, directed by Joseph Chaikin, presented by the ANT at New Playwrights Theater. (The series of monologues opens in November.)

THE WOOSTER GROUP -- a controversial off-Broadway group, brings selections from its shocking, confrontational work to New Playwrights Theater (opening in December).

OTHERS -- For the Kennedy Center, Sellars is considering "The Golden Window," a 90-minute theater piece by Robert Wilson, known for his all-day "Einstein on the Beach"; Anton Chekhov's "The Sea Gull"; an adaptation of Jack Kerouac's beat novel "On the Road"; an "O'Neill Year"; and more free theater.

OPERA HOUSE, TERRACE THEATER

With the Eisenhower Theater reserved for Peter Sellars' stuff, the Kennedy Center's Opera House and Terrace Theater stages will be filled with opera and concerts and dance. But when the opportunity arises, the KenCen will continue to present the occasional touring production or Broadway tryout.

The recently renovated Opera House seats 2,300. Performances are Tuesday through Sunday, 8 p.m.; prices vary with event. Call 254-3770. The intimate Terrace Theater seats 513. Performances dates and prices vary with event. Call 254- 9895.

LILLIAN -- is a one-woman characterization of Lillian Hellman, performed by Zoe Caldwell; written by William Luce, who gave Emily Dickinson the one- woman treatment with "The Belle of Amherst" (in the Terrace Theater November 25 to December 14).

AREN'T WE ALL -- Frederick Lonsdale's drawing room comedy was a hit on Broadway, largely because of the presence of Rex Harrison and Claudette Colbert, who will be appearing here (Opera House, December 11 to January 12).

OTHERS -- The Kennedy Center is also considering two other Broadway hits: "Big River," Roger Miller's Tony-winning musical about Huck Finn; and "The Tap Dance Kid," starring former Washingtonian Hinton Battle.

BALTIMORE THEATERS

They're not joking when they call Baltimore "Charm City." A trip to Baltimore is a quick (one hour by train, less by car), easy, relatively inexpensive escape. There are plenty of good restaurants, a relaxed city atmosphere with real history -- and good theater.

Both of Baltimore's leading theaters have chosen solid, varied seasons. The Morris A. Mechanic and Lyric Opera House attract Broadway attractions and tryouts. Baltimore's Center Stage produces a wide selection of classics and new plays.

The 1,607-seat Morris A. Mechanic Theater is at Hopkins Plaza, and the 2,600-seat Lyric Opera House is at 1404 Maryland Avenue. The Mechanic books all the shows, apportioning them between the two houses. Ticket prices for both theaters vary, but top price is currently $32.50. Call 301/625-4200.

A CHORUS LINE -- reappears in a one-week "pre-season" engagement, with Donna McKechnie reprising her original starring role as Cassie, with co-author Nicholas Dante as Paul. Mechanic, October 1 to 6.

THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA -- a Broadway-bound production of the Tennessee Williams tragicomedy, with Jeanne Moreau and Michael Moriarty as the preacher and spinster at a Mexican resort. Mechanic, October 15 to November 9.

CORPSE -- a "Sleuth"-style mystery spoof by Gerald Moon. Murderous doings and identical twins, with Keith Baxter and Milo O'Shea. Mechanic, November 12 to December 7.

DREAMGIRLS -- a thinly veiled version of the Supremes story with stylish direction and choreography by Michael Bennett (Lyric Opera House, December 10 to January 4.

BACK ON THE TOWN -- world premiere of a new musical by "Annie" director Martin Charnin, with Nancy Walker and Liliane Montevecchi. Mechanic, January 7 to February 1.

42nd STREET -- For those who may have missed David Merrick's backstage musical during its three visits to Washington, those hundred tapping feet play Baltimore. Mechanic, February 11 to March 8).

BILOXI BLUES -- Neil Simon's sequel to "Brighton Beach Memoirs." Mechanic, April 15 to May 10.

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES -- the frothy, feathery hit musical now playing at the National Theater, starring Peter Marshall and Keene Curtis. Lyric Opera House May 6 to May 31.

NOISES OFF -- Michael Frayn's frenetic farce about a tenth-rate English theater company, split sides when it premiered at the Kennedy Center prior to its hit Broadway run. May 27 to June 21.

The 541-seat Center Stage is at 700 North Calvert St., Baltimore. Tickets are $11 to $22; performances Tuesday to Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 7:30 p.m., with matinees varying. Call 301/332-0033.

SHE LOVES ME -- a revival of the 1962 musical comedy by the "Fiddler on the Roof" team of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, about perfume shop workers who fall in love through the personal ads. Now through October 27.

BOESMAN AND LENA -- The great South African actor Zakes Mokae directs Athol Fugard's drama about a South African husband and wife living a life of servitude. November 1 to December 8.

BEDROOM FARCE -- a look into the bedrooms of three couples whose marriage may be on the rocks, by Alan Ayckbourn. December 13 to January 19.

BURIED CHILD -- by Sam Shepard, is about a prodigal son's unsettling homecoming with his Midwestern family. January 24 to March 2.

THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES -- by Moliere. March 7 to April 13.

TBA -- by a playwright to be announced (April 18 to May 25). CAPTION: Picture, Rex Harrison and Claudette Colbert will appear in "Aren't We All" at the Kennedy Center Opera House from Dec. 11 to Jan. 12. The Major Houses

ARENA STAGE

Arena Stage turns 35 this year.

"Think of it in dog years," says founder and producing director Zelda Fichandler, waxing whimsical. "They're worth seven for every human year. So 35 is very old for an institution -- it's more like 300 years. See, each play is like an archaeological excavation of a life. And if you do 8 to 10 plays a year, that's a lot of life. But somehow, to me it feels younger each year, if that's possible to understand."

On a more down-to-earth level, Fichandler says she is most excited by the expansion of the permanent acting company, which has grown to 18, thanks to a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. And Arena, which can always be counted on to dazzle the eye and ear, will continue its work with some of the most provocative directors and designers in the theater.

Arena's three stages -- the 827-seat Arena, the 514-seat Kreeger and the 180-seat Old Vat Room -- are at Sixth and Maine Avenue SW. Performances in the Arena and Kreeger are Tuesday through Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 7:30, with a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee; tickets are $12.75 to $22.75. Performances in the Old Vat Room are Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 7 and 10 p.m.; Sunday at 7:30 p.m.; tickets are $9.75 Thursdays and Sundays, a dollar more on Friday and Saturday. Call 488-3300.

AVNER THE ECCENTRIC -- An endearing "new vaudeville" clown, at the Kreeger, now through October 6.

THE GOOD PERSON OF SETZUAN -- by Bertolt Brecht, involves a gold- hearted hooker who learns about human nature. Arena, opening October 4.

'NIGHT, MOTHER -- Marsha Norman won a Pulitzer for this drama of a daughter who informs her mother she is preparing to kill herself. Kreeger, October 18 to December 8.

WOMEN AND WATER -- the newest in John Guare's "Lydie Breeze" tetralogy, begins after the Civil War. Arena, November 29.

THE REGARD OF FLIGHT -- promises more "new vaudeville" fun from comic Bill Irwin. Kreeger, December 13 to January 12.

RESTORATION -- by British playwright Edward Bond. Arena, January 17.

THE WILD DUCK -- by Henrik Ibsen, will be directed by Romanian director Lucian Pintilie, whose outrageous "Tartuffe" literally brought down the house last year. Kreeger, February 28.

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY -- by Philip Barry, follows two society reporters trying to cover socialite Tracy Lord's wedding. Arena, March 21.

OLD TIMES -- by Harold Pinter, will be directed by Garland Wright, recently named artistic associate at Arena. Kreeger, May 9.

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW -- Douglas C. Wager directs the waspishly witty Shakespearean comedy. Arena, May 23.

BANJO DANCING -- Stephen Wade's eternally amusing show of tale-telling and banjo-plunking continues at the Old Vat Room. It's the longest-running shw in Washington -- six years in January.

NATIONAL THEATER

The venerable -- 150 years old this year -- National Theater "has clearly become the most successful legitimate theater and the most sought after by producers -- outside of the city of New York." So says Shubert Organization president Bernard Jacobs. Looks like he's right on the money.

The Shubert Organization has been managing the historic National since 1980, and as a result of the National's $6 million renovation and the Shubert's booking clout, Washington now boasts the best and the brightest of the Broadway (and Broadway-bound) blockbusters. And the National Theater Corporation is making profits in the six-figure range. That kind of mutual benefit is all too rare in the theater these days.

The 1,680-seat National Theater is at 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Tickets are $22.50 to $40; performances are Tuesday through Sunday, 8 p.m.; matinees Saturday 2 p.m., Sunday 2:30 p.m. Call 554-1900.

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES -- by Jerry Herman, book by Harvey Fierstein, direction by Arthur Laurents (now through December).

SOCIAL SECURITY -- a new comedy about an art dealer, with Marlo Thomas, directed by Mike Nichols (January through mid-February).

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT -- starring Jack Lemmon in Eugene O'Neill's play, directed by Jonathan Miller (March through mid-April).

DREAMGIRLS -- a thinly veiled version of the Supremes story, with stylish direction and choreography by Michael Bennett (April 15 through mid-June).

BILOXI BLUES -- Neil Simon's funny and surprisingly moving sequel to "Brighton Beach Memoirs," in which Simon's alter ego Eugene Morris Jerome joins the Army (opening late June).

In the more distant future, it looks like the National will get the premiere of Neil Simon's "Broadway Bound," the third in his autobiographical trilogy. And the much-anticipated "Chess," directed by Michael Bennett, will make its American premiere at the National in January 1987.

AMERICAN NATIONAL THEATER

Yes, he's young. But he's often wise. He's just as frequently full of it. One thing is certain: you know his name.

He's Peter Sellars, director of the new American National Theater at the Kennedy Center, and he himself is one of the best shows in town.

ANT and Sellars had the whole world watching Washington last season. There was his startling "Count of Monte Cristo," the massive revival of "The Iceman Cometh," a novel subscription series, a Free Theater in the Theater Lab (which was the hottest ticket in town this summer), and the importing of important international and regional theater groups. It seemed everyone in town, whether they had seen the shows or not, had quickly formed an opinion about Peter Sellars, whose directing code seems to be "all things in excess."

Sellars loves it.

As for ANT's upcoming season, Sellars is characteristically cryptic. Since his planned October revival of Robert Sherwood's "Idiot's Deligh" has been postponed till the new year, Sellars is scrambling a bit to get a season together. In November and December ANT will borrow New Playwrights Theater as a ''satellite stage" to sponsor the appearances of two New York avant-garde attractions. And Sellars' first Eisenhower Theater production, which he will direct, is due in early November. He also promises to produce at least a dozen shows by next September.

The ANT's home base, the Eisenhower Theater, seats 1,100. Tickets are $15 to 25 on weekdays, $17 to $27 on weekends; new ANT membership cards are available for purchase, which will give the bearer a $5 discount on all tickets. Performances are Monday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Call 254-7400.

DRAMATIC MONOLOGUES -- by Adrienne Kennedy, directed by Joseph Chaikin, presented by the ANT at New Playwrights Theater. (The series of monologues opens in November.)

THE WOOSTER GROUP -- a controversial off-Broadway group, brings selections from its shocking, confrontational work to New Playwrights Theater (opening in December).

OTHERS -- For the Kennedy Center, Sellars is considering "The Golden Window," a 90-minute theater piece by Robert Wilson, known for his all-day "Einstein on the Beach"; Anton Chekhov's "The Sea Gull"; an adaptation of Jack Kerouac's beat novel "On the Road"; an "O'Neill Year"; and more free theater.

OPERA HOUSE, TERRACE THEATER

With the Eisenhower Theater reserved for Peter Sellars' stuff, the Kennedy Center's Opera House and Terrace Theater stages will be filled with opera and concerts and dance. But when the opportunity arises, the KenCen will continue to present the occasional touring production or Broadway tryout.

The recently renovated Opera House seats 2,300. Performances are Tuesday through Sunday, 8 p.m.; prices vary with event. Call 254-3770. The intimate Terrace Theater seats 513. Performances dates and prices vary with event. Call 254- 9895.

LILLIAN -- is a one-woman characterization of Lillian Hellman, performed by Zoe Caldwell; written by William Luce, who gave Emily Dickinson the one- woman treatment with "The Belle of Amherst" (in the Terrace Theater November 25 to December 14).

AREN'T WE ALL -- Frederick Lonsdale's drawing room comedy was a hit on Broadway, largely because of the presence of Rex Harrison and Claudette Colbert, who will be appearing here (Opera House, December 11 to January 12).

OTHERS -- The Kennedy Center is also considering two other Broadway hits: "Big River," Roger Miller's Tony-winning musical about Huck Finn; and "The Tap Dance Kid," starring former Washingtonian Hinton Battle.

BALTIMORE THEATERS

They're not joking when they call Baltimore "Charm City." A trip to Baltimore is a quick (one hour by train, less by car), easy, relatively inexpensive escape. There are plenty of good restaurants, a relaxed city atmosphere with real history -- and good theater.

Both of Baltimore's leading theaters have chosen solid, varied seasons. The Morris A. Mechanic and Lyric Opera House attract Broadway attractions and tryouts. Baltimore's Center Stage produces a wide selection of classics and new plays.

The 1,607-seat Morris A. Mechanic Theater is at Hopkins Plaza, and the 2,600-seat Lyric Opera House is at 1404 Maryland Avenue. The Mechanic books all the shows, apportioning them between the two houses. Ticket prices for both theaters vary, but top price is currently $32.50. Call 301/625-4200.

A CHORUS LINE -- reappears in a one-week "pre-season" engagement, with Donna McKechnie reprising her original starring role as Cassie, with co-author Nicholas Dante as Paul. Mechanic, October 1 to 6.

THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA -- a Broadway-bound production of the Tennessee Williams tragicomedy, with Jeanne Moreau and Michael Moriarty as the preacher and spinster at a Mexican resort. Mechanic, October 15 to November 9.

CORPSE -- a "Sleuth"-style mystery spoof by Gerald Moon. Murderous doings and identical twins, with Keith Baxter and Milo O'Shea. Mechanic, November 12 to December 7.

DREAMGIRLS -- a thinly veiled version of the Supremes story with stylish direction and choreography by Michael Bennett (Lyric Opera House, December 10 to January 4.

BACK ON THE TOWN -- world premiere of a new musical by "Annie" director Martin Charnin, with Nancy Walker and Liliane Montevecchi. Mechanic, January 7 to February 1.

42nd STREET -- For those who may have missed David Merrick's backstage musical during its three visits to Washington, those hundred tapping feet play Baltimore. Mechanic, February 11 to March 8).

BILOXI BLUES -- Neil Simon's sequel to "Brighton Beach Memoirs." Mechanic, April 15 to May 10.

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES -- the frothy, feathery hit musical now playing at the National Theater, starring Peter Marshall and Keene Curtis. Lyric Opera House May 6 to May 31.

NOISES OFF -- Michael Frayn's frenetic farce about a tenth-rate English theater company, split sides when it premiered at the Kennedy Center prior to its hit Broadway run. May 27 to June 21.

The 541-seat Center Stage is at 700 North Calvert St., Baltimore. Tickets are $11 to $22; performances Tuesday to Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 7:30 p.m., with matinees varying. Call 301/332-0033.

SHE LOVES ME -- a revival of the 1962 musical comedy by the "Fiddler on the Roof" team of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, about perfume shop workers who fall in love through the personal ads. Now through October 27.

BOESMAN AND LENA -- The great South African actor Zakes Mokae directs Athol Fugard's drama about a South African husband and wife living a life of servitude. November 1 to December 8.

BEDROOM FARCE -- a look into the bedrooms of three couples whose marriage may be on the rocks, by Alan Ayckbourn. December 13 to January 19.

BURIED CHILD -- by Sam Shepard, is about a prodigal son's unsettling homecoming with his Midwestern family. January 24 to March 2.

THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES -- by Moliere. March 7 to April 13.

TBA -- by a playwright to be announced (April 18 to May 25).Picture, Rex Harrison and Claudette Colbert will appear in "Aren't We All" at the Kennedy Center Opera House from Dec. 11 to Jan. 12.