It was love at first sight.

The first time Stanley Anderson read for the part of the wild boar he fell madly in love with it (the part, that is).

"I like to do different things," said Anderson, an Arena Stage Resident Acting Company member, who in John Guare's "Women and Water" plays three roles: a Union soldier, an insurance investigator and, of course, the crazed pig.

Where does an actor go to learn how to play a hog? Redskin Park might seem the logical place. But Anderson opted for a slaughterhouse south of Richmond, where one day recently he was tutored by 105 of the grunting swine, just passing through on their way to hog heaven. Anderson said he paid particular attention to a 950-pound boar, tape-recording the tusked beast for four hours. From that encounter, Anderson said, he was able to reproduce three sounds for the stage. (Just how many sounds does a hog make, anyway?) Some bedtime reading on boar musculature and carriage, and Anderson was ready to face the audience.

On stage, Anderson wears a black "unitard," knee and hand pads and a hockey-goalie-like mask that covers his face, leaving his body to be the expressive instrument.

Fortunately for Anderson, the boar scene is brief, with Lydie Breeze harpooning the pig moments after it bursts from its cage. "Those are the most physically exhausting four minutes I think I've ever spent in my life on stage," said the newest scholar of acting like a pig.

You can catch Professor Anderson's seminar at the Arena through Jan. 5. Gift-Wrapped Theater

Washington theaters may be dark Christmas, but you can still wrap up the theater and put it under the tree.

An assortment of dramatic masks are available. The Friends of the Kennedy Center Gift Shops have hand-carved wooden masks from China, as well as pa pier-mache' reproductions of masks used in the Peking Opera. The Source offers custom life masks ("the experience as pleasant as a facial") by Chanah, a sampling of which can be seen in "Amadeus." And, on the more practical side, Backstage Inc. on P Street NW is serving white and dark chocolate comedy/tragedy masks on a stick.

Broadway-musical lovers should stop by One Shubert Alley, next to the National Theatre, for memorabilia from such hits as "A Chorus Line," "Cats" and "La Cage aux Folles." Aside from posters, albums, cassettes, calendars and stuffed dolls, the store has in stock "Cats" music boxes and Broadway "Sing-along" shower curtains, complete with lyrics.

For classicists on your shopping list, the Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger offers a limited-edition, full-color poster, featuring a collage of characters from the current season, as well as the Bard himself; the poster's available through the box office. Also, satin, burgundy-colored baseball jackets, with the theater's new logo in cream lettering, can be ordered by calling 547-3230.

Those attending productions at Arena Stage can sort through an impressive collection of Michael David Brown's posters of past and current Arena plays. Sweatshirts, T-shirts, calendars and greeting cards are also available, with coffee mugs due to arrive soon.

Aspiring thespians can step into the limelight with "Theatre Revue," a Parcheesi-like improvisational board game, which leads players on their quest to become a star, available at Backstage Inc.

And, finally, don't forget that old standby, the gift certificate. Most theaters sell gift certificates through their box offices. Two special programs: the Shakespeare Theatre's Passport to the Classics, which allows the patron to select three plays from the current season and the specific dates at a 5 percent discount; and American National Theatre's $35 tax-deductible membership, which gives the member a $5 discount on each ticket purchased, as well as advance notice of all ANT productions and guaranteed access to free theater events. New Comedy Theater

Washington has a new comedy theater. The Park Place Players debut Friday at the Loews L'Enfant Plaza Hotel with "Comedy A La Carte," a series of comedy cameos inspired by "Second City" but uniquely Washington, like finding L'Enfant Plaza or taking "Acting for Lawyers."

Surprisingly, "Comedy A La Carte" is without a political focus. "That gets boring," said producer Zina Greene, asserting that most Washingtonians are of the mind: "Oh, God, I do that all day at work. Who wants to go hear it at night."

According to Greene, the Park Place Players are not stand-up comics but rather "solid actors with good comic timing."

Directed by Geoffrey Neuman, professor and former chairman of the drama department at Howard University, "Comedy A La Carte" will run continuously on Friday and Saturday nights, with a dinner show and a late show. For reservations call 646-4400.