Lory Leshin's mother read a review of last fall's Source Theatre production of "Extremities" -- which among other acts of violence contained a graphic rape scene -- and asked her daughter, the play's fight choreographer, "How can you do this?"

"I feel in theater we have a moral responsibility to depict violence for what it is," Leshin told her mother. "The way it's being depicted on television and in film , it's too damn easy. We don't see the effort it takes to kill someone."

Leshin, who teaches dance and theater movement at St. Mary's College, is a member of a rare breed -- female fight choreographers. "It has to do with our socialization," she explains, adding, "I had never had to express power before" studying stage combat. "I love especially teaching this stuff to women because I see them just blossom," Leshin says. "They just grab hold of this stuff and take off."

Leshin, whose work can currently be seen in "Geography of a Horse Dreamer" at the Source, strives to make her fight scenes "delicious" -- that is, "fulfilled and satisfying for the audience, but at the same time thoroughly safe."

For safety reasons, Leshin insists that her actors are not to go on stage before rehearsing their fight sequences. "You can't rely on adrenalin or you'll blow it," she says. "I pride myself so far that no actor has been hurt in any show I've been involved in." A Month of Fundraisers

May appears to be the month of choice for theater benefits.

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts will hold a benefit for its theater department at 8 p.m. Thursday. The evening begins with a performance of Studs Terkel's musical "Working" -- the school's first production since the renovation of its new theater -- which runs through Saturday. Micki Grant, one of the musical's original composers, will be the special guest at a reception following the show. Tickets cost $25; call 333-6699.

Source Theatre needs money to get "Beyond Therapy" beyond Washington -- specifically to Scotland, where the play will be presented (along with "Narcissus Bound") in August at the Edinburgh Theatre Festival. A check for $25 gets you a seat at a benefit performance of "Beyond Therapy," which will be preceded by a champagne and hors d'oeuvres reception at the Warehouse Rep Saturday at 4 p.m.; call 462-1073.

The American Showcase Theatre Company introduces off-Broadway to Alexandria with a fund-raising performance of the musical cabaret "Starting Here, Starting Now" Saturday at the Lyceum. Tickets to the show, which will be preceded by a cocktail buffet at 7 p.m., cost $25; call 548-9044. "Starting Here, Starting Now" opens May 23 at the Park Place Cafe, where it will run Fridays and Saturdays through June 28; call 667-2701.

Political humorist Mark Russell will headline the Friends of the Round House Theatre's second annual gala benefit party -- "Puttin' on the Ritz" -- May 18 at the Centre Court of Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg at 8 p.m. WMAL's Chris Core will act as master of ceremonies for the evening's activities, which include an "All the Rage Fashion Show," live and silent auctions and a raffle. Tickets cost $35; call 468-4234. Veterans' Musical

The D.C. Vietnam Veterans' Troupe will present its premiere production -- a musical variety show entitled "F.T.A." -- Monday at the Veterans Administration Hospital. The troupe, entirely composed of Vietnam veterans, their families or descendants, will provide a forum for the dramatic works of Vietnam veterans as well as perform for audiences whose exposure to theater is limited, such as hospital patients and residents of shelters for the homeless. For more information call 484-7472. Odds and Ends

"Forbidden Broadway" will close May 18 after a run of 32 weeks at the Shoreham's Marquee Lounge . . . Mothers accompanied by a paying son or daughter will be admitted free to this Sunday's performance of "Quilters" at the Castle Arts Center at 2 p.m.; call 277-6122 . . . "Something Blue," a play that follows three friends from wedding to wedding during their first decade out of high school, will be the final production of New Playwrights' Theatre's 14th season, running Thursday through June 1 . . . Fredrick Davies will perform his one-man show, "The Great Truman Capote," Thursday at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater.