For the second year in a row, Arena Stage swamped the nominations for Helen Hayes Awards, with 22 bids for prizes in eight categories, including three nominations for Outstanding Production of 1985. The awards, inaugurated last year, are meant to recognize excellence in Washington theater. The winners will be announced on April 28.

The newcomer in Washington theater, the American National Theater, picked up 13 nominations, including four each for "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "The Iceman Cometh," and others for productions imported from Chicago's Wisdom Bridge and Steppenwolf Theatre companies.

The nominations were announced last night at a reception at the British Embassy by Richard L. Coe, drama critic emeritus of The Washington Post and chairman of the Helen Hayes Society, which administers the awards.

This year there are 18 categories. The 95 nominees were selected from 155 plays produced by 26 area theaters. R. Robert Linowes, honorary cochairman of the awards gala and head of the Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger Board, said last night that the awards were a sign of the growth in theater productions and attendance that the city has experienced in the last year.

Linowes said the number of professional productions had risen from 103 to 155, the number of performances from 2,923 to 4,486, and attendance from 1,468,564 to 1,972,864.

Seven shows pulled in four nominations apiece, but only one -- Arena's production of Molie re's "Tartuffe" -- garnered eight, including Best Resident Production. Director Lucian Pintilie, whose "Wild Duck" is currently running at the Kreeger, was nominated in the Outstanding Director category, in which he will compete with two other Arena directors, Douglas C. Wager for "Execution of Justice" and Garland Wright for "The Good Person of Setzuan." Other "Tartuffe" nominations were Mirouna Boruzescu for the costumes, Beverly Emmons for lighting design, Radu Boruzescu for the exploding set, Katherine Leask (Marianne) and Isabell Monk (Dorine) for Outstanding Supporting Actress and Richard Bauer for Outstanding Lead Actor.

Seventeen of 26 eligible theaters received nominations. Included this year for the first time are four dinner theaters and two that were not in operation in time for last year's awards. One of the dinner theaters, Harlequin, was nominated for Best Production of a Resident Musical (a new category), for "A Chorus Line." Three other new categories added this year did not have sufficient nominees to be included in the awards' first year: Outstanding Production Prior to New York, Outstanding Actress in a Resident Musical and Outstanding Actor in a Resident Musical.

Nominees are selected by a group of 45 nominators, whose ballots are forwarded to a panel of seven judges. At least one nominator and one judge must agree before a nominee makes it to the finals; the judges make the final nominations and choose the winners.

This year's judges are headed by Coe and include theater critics Faiga Levine and Roger Meersman (also a professor at the University of Maryland); director Fredric Lee; actor and editor of the Arts Reporting Service Charles C. Mark; Helen Hayes Board Chairman Kathy Dwyer, a program coordinator for the American Institute of Architects Foundation; and Gene Morrill, head of the Actors Center and Actors Equity representative in Washington.

Actors from the same theater will be competing against each other in some categories, and in two, actors will be competing against themselves. Actor Edward Gero, a member of the Folger's resident company, was cited for his performance as Mistress Quickly in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and as Cassio in "Othello." And Grover Gardner was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor for roles in two Woolly Mammoth productions, "Metamorphosis" and "Looking Glass."

Vying for Best Resident Production are three from Arena: "Tartuffe," "The Good Person of Setzuan" and "Execution of Justice"; "Fool for Love" from the Round House; and Olney Theatre's production of "The Foreigner." Round House had no nominations last year but got five this year.

Two other theaters entered the sweepstakes this year after having been shut out last year: Woolly Mammoth, which pulled in three bids, and GALA Hispanic Theatre, whose actress Ramona Rhoades was cited for Outstanding Supporting Actress for "The Knight From Olmedo." Other small theaters held their own, with Studio picking up eight bids, Source two, and Horizons three (including Outstanding Director).

This year's nominees:

Outstanding Production -- Touring: "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (National Theatre), "Kabuki Medea" (American National Theater/Wisdom Bridge Theatre), "La Cage Aux Folles" (National Theatre), "My One and Only" (Kennedy Center), "Streamers" (American National Theater/Steppenwolf Theatre Company), "Tent Meeting" (Kennedy Center).

Outstanding Production -- Prior to New York: "The Iceman Cometh" (American National Theater), "Lillian" (Kennedy Center), "Uptown . . . It's Hot" (Warner Theatre).

Outstanding Lead Actor -- Touring Production or Prior to New York: Keene Curtis, "La Cage Aux Folles" (National Theatre); Patrick Dempsey, "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (National Theatre); Bill Irwin, "The Regard of Flight" (Arena Stage); William Peterson, "In the Belly of the Beast" (American National Theater/Wisdom Bridge Theatre); Jason Robards, "The Iceman Cometh" (American National Theater); Tommy Tune, "My One and Only" (Kennedy Center).

Outstanding Lead Actress -- Touring Production or Prior to New York: Zoe Caldwell, "Lillian" (Kennedy Center); Barbara Cook, "Barbara Cook -- A Broadway Evening" (Ford's Theatre); Sandy Duncan, "My One and Only" (Kennedy Center); Laurie Metcalf, "Coyote Ugly" (American National Theater/Steppenwolf Theatre Company); Barbara Robertson, "Kabuki Medea" (American National Theater/Wisdom Bridge Theatre).

Outstanding Supporting Performer -- Touring Production or Prior to New York: Charles (Honi) Coles, "My One and Only" (Kennedy Center); Barnard Hughes, "The Iceman Cometh" (American National Theater); Larry Larson, "Tent Meeting" (Kennedy Center); Donald Moffat, "The Iceman Cometh" (American National Theater); Lisa Waltz, "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (National Theatre).

Outstanding Costume Design -- Resident Production: Mirouna Boruzescu, "Tartuffe" (Arena Stage); Holly Cole, "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger); Kate Corbley, "The Miss Firecracker Contest" (Olney Theatre); Liz Covey, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger); Marjorie Slaiman, "Women and Water" (Arena Stage); Kurt Wilhelm, "The Count of Monte Cristo" (American National Theater).

Outstanding Lighting Design -- Resident Production: Stuart Duke, "Othello" (Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger); Stuart Duke, "A Walk Out of Water" (Studio Theatre); Beverly Emmons, "Tartuffe" (Arena Stage); Allan Lee Hughes, "Women and Water" (Arena Stage); James Ingalls, "The Count of Monte Cristo" (American National Theater); Richard Winkler, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger).

Outstanding Set Design -- Resident Production: John Arnone, "The Good Person of Setzuan" (Arena Stage); Radu Boruzescu, "Tartuffe" (Arena Stage); Russell Metheny, "March of the Falsettos" (Studio Theatre); Russell Metheny, "A Walk Out of Water" (Studio Theatre); George Tsypin, "The Count of Monte Cristo" (American National Theater); Patricia Woodbridge, "Isn't It Romantic" (Arena Stage).

Outstanding Supporting Actress -- Resident Production: Erika Bogren, "A Walk Out of Water" (Studio Theatre); Bridgid Cleary, "The Miss Firecracker Contest" (Olney Theatre); Tana Hicken, "Execution of Justice" (Arena Stage); Katherine Leask, "Tartuffe" (Arena Stage); Isabell Monk, "Tartuffe" (Arena Stage); Ramona Rhoades, "The Knight From Olmedo" (GALA Hispanic Theatre).

Outstanding Supporting Actor -- Resident Production: Emery Battis, "Hamlet" (Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger); Edward Gero, "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger); Edward Gero, "Othello" (Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger); Brian Hemmingsen, "Last Days at the Dixie Girl Cafe" (Horizons Theatre); Floyd King, "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger); Patrick Richwood, "The Foreigner" (Olney Theatre).

Outstanding Lead Actress -- Resident Production: Janet Bryant, "Fool for Love" (Round House Theatre); Randy Danson, "The Good Person of Setzuan" (Arena Stage); Marcia Gay Harden, "The Miss Firecracker Contest (Olney Theatre); Mercedes McCambridge, " 'night, Mother" (Arena Stage); Carole Myers, "Miss Lulu Bett" (Horizons Theatre); Katherine Squire, "A Walk Out of Water" (Studio Theatre); Halo Wines, " 'night, Mother" (Arena Stage).

Outstanding Lead Actor -- Resident Production: Richard Bauer, "Tartuffe" (Arena Stage); Steven Dawn, "Extremities" (Source Theatre); Grover Gardner, "Looking Glass" (Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company); Grover Gardner, "Metamorphosis" (Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company); Mark Jaster, "The Man Who Killed the Buddha" (Round House Theatre); Thomas Schall, "Fool for Love" (Round House Theatre).

Outstanding Actress -- Resident Musical: Janet Aldrich, "Forbidden Broadway" (Omni-Shoreham); Carol Dilley, "Little Me" (Ford's Theatre); Ann Johnson, "March of the Falsettos" (Studio Theatre); Liz Larsen, "Baby" (Olney Theatre).

Outstanding Actor -- Resident Musical: Romain Fruge, "Baby" (Olney Theatre); J. Fred Shiffman, "March of the Falsettos" (Studio Theatre); James W. Sudik, "Little Me" (Ford's Theatre); Stephen Wade, "Banjo Dancing" (Arena Stage).

Outstanding Director -- Resident Production: Susan Brinkley, "Fool for Love" (Round House Theatre); Leslie Jacobson, "Miss Lulu Bett" (Horizons Theatre); Lucian Pintilie, "Tartuffe" (Arena Stage); Peter Sellars, "The Count of Monte Cristo" (American National Theater); Douglas Wager, "Execution of Justice" (Arena Stage); Garland Wright, "The Good Person of Setzuan" (Arena Stage).

Best New Play: "After My Own Heart," by Paul J. Donnelly Jr. (New Playwrights' Theatre); "Ladies' Side," by Alex Finlayson (Source Theatre); "Metamorphosis," by Ralph Hunt (Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company); "Thin Wall," by Phoef Sutton (New Playwrights' Theatre).

Best Production -- Resident Play: "Execution of Justice" (Arena Stage), "Fool for Love" (Round House Theatre), "The Foreigner" (Olney Theatre), "The Good Person of Setzuan" (Arena Stage), "Tartuffe" (Arena Stage).

Best Production -- Resident Musical: "Baby" (Olney Theatre), "A Chorus Line" (Harlequin Dinner Theatre), "Little Me" (Ford's Theatre), "March of the Falsettos" (Studio Theatre).