Texas playwright Larry L. King is in rehearsal at New Playwrights' Theatre for the debut of his new play, "The Night Hank Williams Died," and he's appearing in the production. When King wrote the supporting role, he had in mind Henderson Forsythe, the actor who won a Tony Award for playing the sheriff in King's long-running Broadway smash, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." Forsythe had an extended television commitment that prevents him from appearing in the play, which will run Feb. 3 through March 5.

New Playwrights' Artistic Director Peter Frisch said he and King had auditioned actors here and in New York for the role of Gus, the aging, worn-down owner of the Sundowner Recreational Club. King would read with the actors, Frisch said, "and nine-tenths of the time he would be more interesting." Frisch told King he was "a damn good actor" and talked him into playing the role. Mark Johnson and Elizabeth DuVall, a Helen Hayes Award winner, are the leads in the play.

Out and About

The reserved hotel suite wasn't necessary and neither was the four-wheel-drive, snow-will-never-stop-this-baby vehicle. Shortly after midnight yesterday "Wonder Woman" Lynda Carter gave birth to a seven-pound son at the Columbia Hospital for Women. The father, Washington lawyer Robert Altman, who is also president of First American Corp., said the baby has been named James Clifford Altman. The middle name is in honor of former presidential adviser and defense secretary Clark Clifford, a close family friend and Altman's law partner. The Altmans had taken no chances on the weather; the child had been expected anytime during the past couple of weeks, and the couple had reserved a hotel suite near the hospital and purchased a four-wheel-drive vehicle in case of snow ...

Hospital Report: Former Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus, who became a national figure in the 1950s when he attempted to block the integration of Little Rock High School, is listed in good condition at the Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock, Ark., after undergoing a balloon angioplasty procedure to unclog a blocked coronary artery. The 77-year-old, six-term governor has a history of heart problems and recently underwent his third pacemaker implant ...

There'll probably be as many demonstrators as celebrators at next week's National Abortion Rights Action League fund-raising dinner at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. The dinner will mark the 15th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision granting women access to legal abortions. Among the celebrity guests expected for the $250-a-plate dinner are actress Morgan Fairchild, Cosmopolitan magazine editor Helen Gurley Brown, singer Judy Collins, Sen. Bob Packwood and House Majority Whip Tony Coelho ...

Naoko Takeshita, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, toured the National Gallery of Art yesterday to view the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition. National Gallery Director J. Carter Brown took the Takeshita entourage on the tour. Takeshita was visiting the gallery in anticipation of a major exhibition of Japanese art and culture entitled "Japan: The Shaping of Daimyo Culture 1200-1800," which will go on view in the East Building Oct. 30 ...

After Wednesday's celebration of the National Geographic Society's 100th anniversary, there was still plenty of birthday cake left over. Yesterday, a large leftover cake was delivered to the Pitts Motor Hotel shelter for homeless families ...