If you're inspired to "tread the boards," here are some places that offer beginner classes. Reputable schools encourage questions from prospective students and often allow them to observe a class first.

FOLGER THEATER CONSERVATORY 201 East Capitol Street SE, Washington, DC 20003. 547-5688. Steven Welsh, educational and outreach program director.

FUNDAMENTALS OF ACTING -- Saturdays, 10 to 12:30; 15 weeks, starting March 1. Admission by interview.

INTRODUCTION TO ACTING SHAKESPEARE -- Saturdays, 10 to 12:30; 15 weeks, starting March 1. Admission by audition.

SHAKESPEARE SCENE STUDY -- Saturdays, 10 to 12:30; 15 weeks, starting March 1.

All classes are $325; auditions/interviews are held February 8 and February 9 from 10 to noon, by appointment.

GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY Continuing Education, Washington, DC 20057. 625-3001. ACTING WORKSHOP -- 10 sessions, Tuesday evenings from 7 to 9 pm; January 28 to April 1. Led by Gay Gibson Cima; $120. MUSIC THEATER WORKSHOP -- 10 sessions, Monday evenings 8 to 10; January 27 to April 7. Led by Inga-Britta Elgcrona; $75.

Georgetown also offers lecture courses on playwrights and an on-site "Shakespeare in Production" course through the Folger Theater.

GLEN ECHO PARK MacArthur Boulevard, Glen Echo, MD 20812. 320-5331. INTRODUCTION TO MIME -- Wednesdays, 7 to 9 p.m.; February 5 to 26. Taught by Lin Murphy/Tom Nicotera; $48. BUILDING A STAGE VOICE -- Tuesdays 8 to 9:30 p.m.; February 18 to March 18. Taught by Linda Sillin; $80. BUSINESS OF BEING AN ACTOR -- Information on headshots and resumes. Tuesdays 6:45 to 7:45; February 18 to March 18. Taught by Linda Sillin; $65. DIALECT WORKSHOP -- European accents. March 19, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Taught by Linda Sillin; $15.

HORIZONS THEATER 1041 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007. 342-7706. INTRODUCTION TO ACTING -- February 5 to March 31; 21/2-hour sessions. Taught by Pat Tullil; $150. SCENE STUDY COURSE -- February 4 to March 31; 21/2-hour sessions. Taught by Dot Newman; $150.

Horizons is also planning spring workshops in make-up and auditioning.

JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER 6125 Montrose Road, Rockville, MD 20852. 881-0100. Alan Amberg, educational director. MIME -- Sundays, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.; February 23 to March 23. Taught by Karen Abromatis; $65 member/$80 non-member. PERFORMANCE WORKSHOP FOR ADULTS -- Tuesdays 8 to 9:30 p.m.; February 18 to April 8 (plus production time). Audition required. Students rehearse and perform for Center's production of "The Zulu and the Zayda." Led by Alan Amberg; $60 member, $75 non-member. PRODUCTION WORKSHOP -- Production Work on "The Zulu and the Zayda." Wednesdays 8 to 9:15 p.m.; February 19 to April 12 (plus production time). Taught by Alan Amberg; $50 member, $65 non- member.

Upon student request, Amberg will teach an "Acting and Directing Techniques for Beginners Workshop."

NEW PLAYWRIGHTS' THEATER 1742 Church Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. 234-4527. Ronald Ross, educational director.

All classes begin the week of January 20. THE ACTOR'S PROCESS -- Saturdays 1 to 3; 10 sessions plus orientation. $175. BEGINNING SCENE STUDY -- Saturdays 10 to noon; 10 sessions plus orientation. $175. PLAYWRITING -- Wednesdays 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.; 10 sessions. $175.

OPEN STUDIO 1512 Corcoran Street NW, #42, Washington, DC 20009. 462-7068. ACTING SKILLS -- Saturdays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; February 8 to April 19. Taught by Isabel-Lee Malone; $210. EXPLORATION OF COMEDY -- Mondays 6 to 7:43 p.m.; March 3 to April 21. Taught by Bart Whiteman. $98. A VOCAL ORIENTATION -- Tuesdays noon to 2; February 4 to March 11. Taught by Linda Allison. $84. STAND-UP COMEDY -- Tuesdays 7 to 9 p.m.; February 4 to April 15. Taught by Gregory H. Pools; $154. MOVING FOR LAUGHS -- Wednesdays 3 to 5 p.m.; February 5 to April 9. Taught by Karen Abromatis; $140. THE CRAFT OF COMEDY -- Wednesdays 7 to 9:30 p.m.; February 5 to March 26. Taught by Josh Billings; $140. MAKING OF A CLOWN -- Thursdays 7 to 8:30 p.m.; February 12 to April 9. Taught by Jake Stern; $84. IMPROVISE YOUR LIFE -- Fridays noon to 2, February 7 to April 18; or Saturdays 10 to noon, February 8 to April 19. Taught by Ginger Prichard; $140. COMEDY IN EVERYDAY MOVEMENT -- Saturdays, 2:15 to 4:15 p.m.; March 8 to March 22. Taught by Michelle Ava; $42. COMEDY IN MOVEMENT -- Saturdays 2:15 to 4:15 p.m.; April 5 to 19. Taught by Dianne Hunt; $42.

OPEN UNIVERSITY 3333 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008. 966-9606. ACTING FOR NON-ACTORS -- Section E: Fridays 8 to 10 p.m., January 17 to February 14; Section F: Mondays 8 to 10 p.m., February 17 to March 17; Section G: Tuesdays 8 to 10 p.m., March 25 to April 22. Near Connecticut Avenue/Cleveland Park Metro. Taught by Rosina Mason; $52.

ROUND HOUSE THEATER 12210 Bushey Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20902. Kim Rubenstein, educational director. 468-4172. Classes start January 11. PRACTICE OF ACTING -- Primarily an audition workshop for actors interested in the business side of acting. Saturdays 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.; runs through April 5. Taught by Richard DeAngelis; $79.

SOURCE THEATER 1835 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009. 462-1073. Contact Pat Sheehy. SCENE STUDY -- Mondays 8 to 11 p.m.; January 27 to March 13. Led by Bart Whiteman; $200.

STUDIO THEATER 1401 Church Street NW, Washington, DC 20005. 232-7267. Marcia Churchill, registrar. Semester runs January 14 to May 26. All listed classes ar $295. BASIC ACTING -- Mondays 5 to 7:30 p.m.; Sarah Marshall teaches. REALISM I -- Mondays 8 to 10:30 p.m.; Paul Cunningham teaches. Wednesdays 8 to 10:30 p.m.; Nancy Paris teaches. Thursdays 5 to 7:30 p.m.; Paul Cunningham teaches. Fridays 12:30 to 3 p.m.; Joy Zinoman teaches.

Complete curriculum includes Shakespeare, Greek tragedy, directing, auditioning and movement and voice classes.

FOR ADVANCED STUDY Single classes are very expensive for occasional students, but American University (885-3420), Catholic University (635-5355) and George Washington University (676- 8072) offer degree programs in theater.

PLANNING AHEAD FOR SUMMER ARENA STAGE -- offers summer classes for adults through Living Stage. 554-9066. MONTGOMERY COLLEGE -- Rockville Campus runs a dinner theater program for actors of all ages. 279-5250. HARTKE THEATER CONSERVATORY -- sponsored by Catholic University, is open to adults who can attend daytime classes. 635- 5355.

For information on acting workshops taught by individuals and on specialty workshops, such as "Acting for the Camera," contact the Actors Center, 638-3777, 420 Seventh Street NW, Washington, DC 20004.