Source Theatre Company will not produce its annual Washington Theatre Festival of new plays this summer. Instead, the financially strapped organization, whose 14th Street NW stage has been dark since late March, will hold what Artistic Director Joe Banno calls "Festival-lite."

He explained via e-mail that Source will act as an online clearinghouse for readings and workshops of new works in development by other small local companies this summer. The arrangement, Banno wrote, "re-establishes ties between Source and a number of artists who count themselves as festival alums." It will also, he hopes, keep Source on audiences' radar screens until it resumes producing plays.

The only time Source itself will make theater is Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4-6, in the Kennedy Center's Page-to-Stage festival. Longtime Source literary manager Keith Parker says the company will present two evenings of 10-minute plays, a reading of the new full-length work that wins Source's annual literary prize (culled from scripts sent in from around the country) and a workshop of Shawn Northrip's "McBeth's McTragic McMusical." Source staged Northrip's equally Bard-ish rock musical "Titus!" last season.

Parker says Source's Web site, www.sourcetheatre.com, soon will include information about and links to past festival participants with their own summer showcases, including the Black Women Playwrights Group's "DNA: Drama, Nuance, Attitude" at the Flashpoint through Aug. 8, Washington Women in Theatre's "Anti-Stepford Wives Festival" July 25-27 at the Warehouse Theatre, Theatre Lab's musical revue "Breaking Ground" at the Writer's Center in Bethesda July 29-31 and Venus Theatre's "Bad Girls III: Redemption" Aug. 18-Sept. 12 at the Warehouse.

Fresh in Frederick

Tad Janes, artistic director and co-founder of the Maryland Ensemble Theatre in Frederick, worked in Chicago with a group of young Second City alumni for a time but says his move to Frederick has meant more creative freedom for him.

"If I just wanted to be an actor, I'd probably go to New York and Los Angeles, but I don't just want to be an actor," says the 38-year-0ld West Virginia native. "I want to create work as well, create work from a new and interesting perspective." And Frederick, he adds, is "an artsy town with a long history" and "a growing progressive contingent."

Now housed in a 100-seat theater space in the restored Francis Scott Key Hotel, the non-Equity troupe began producing professionally in 1997. MET also includes the Comedy Pigs late-night comedy troupe and acting classes for kids and adults.

Janes and several of his co-founders met while studying drama at West Virginia University with Ed Herendeen, who runs the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown. "There were a few of us sitting around who decided we wanted to . . . make a multifaceted theater company where we do more than plays," including improvisational comedies and school performances, Janes says.

Since its founding, MET has presented everything from Sam Shepard's "True West" to "Romeo and Juliet" to "Snoopy! The Musical," though with an emphasis on comic works to attract audiences. "We have to be eclectic in nature . . . we're trying to lead an audience into contemporary plays," Janes says. "We're trying to lead them into maybe a more experimental style . . . and for our own sake and sanity, we love to do a good Shakespeare play . . . or a Greek classic. . . . We don't want to stifle ourselves in any way."

"Planet Claire," an original show conceived by Janes and inspired by the music of the B-52's, just ended a reprise run at the Baltimore Theatre Project. "The idea was to increase our audience base a little bit and to see how this piece might play in a more metropolitan setting," he says.

The upcoming MET season includes: David Auburn's "Proof" (Aug. 13-Sept. 11); "Democracy" (Sept. 24-Oct. 23), an original ensemble production (not to be confused with the similarly titled British play coming to Broadway); Claudia Shear's "Dirty Blonde" (Nov. 12-Dec. 11); Andrew Lippa's musical "The Wild Party" (Jan. 14-Feb. 19); Aristophanes' "Lysistrata" (March 11-April 16); and Steve Martin's "The Underpants" (May 6-June 11).

Greeting Seasons

Catalyst Theater Company (www.catalysttheater.com) has corralled prominent Washington directors for its fourth season at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. Jim Petosa of Olney Theatre Center will direct "The Elephant Man" (Sept. 9-Oct. 16) by Bernard Pomerance. Actress-director Halo Wines will stage Caryl Churchill's "Cloud 9" (Jan. 13-Feb. 12). Kathleen Akerley of Longacre Lea Productions will direct an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth," titled "Shkspr Prjct" (May 5-June 11).

The American Century Theater (www.americancentury.org), which presents revivals of rarely performed American works at the Gunston Arts Center in Arlington, will start its season with William Saroyan's 1939 play, "The Time of Your Life" (Sept. 10-Oct. 9), directed by Terry Kester. Clifford Odets's "Paradise Lost" (Nov. 17-Dec. 18), from 1935, will be staged by DeAnna Duncan. Stephen Mazzola will direct Robert Anderson's 1953 drama "Tea and Sympathy" (Jan. 7-Feb. 5). American Century will reprise its popular "Moby Dick Rehearsed" (March 31-April 30), an Orson Welles project from 1955, to be staged by Artistic Director Jack Marshall. Ed Bishop will direct Eugene O'Neill's 1921 drama "The Emperor Jones" (July 8-Aug. 6). The company plans a concert staging of the 1943 musical "One Touch of Venus," the date pending.

Follow Spots

* Phoenix Theatre DC is presenting "Parallel Lives: The Kathy & Mo Show," a collection of sketch comedy vignettes by Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney, at 1409 Playbill Cafe through Aug. 7. Kimberley Cooper Kissoyan and Misty Demory star. Contact 202-441-9738 or phoenixtheatredc@hotmail.com.

* Imagination Stage in Bethesda has added another summer show for younger children. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," for ages 4 and up, runs July 15-Aug. 16, joining "Merlin and the Cave of Dreams" (through Aug. 8), for ages 7 and up. The author is Mary Hall Surface, who also staged "Merlin." Call 301-280-1660 or visit www.ImaginationStage.org.

Source's Keith Parker says the theater's Web site will spotlight past festival par- ticipants involved in showcases elsewhere."Planet Claire," left (with Amy Easton, front) is part of the eclectic fare produced by the Maryland Ensemble Theatre. "We're trying to lead an audience into contemporary plays," founder Tad Janes, above, says of the Frederick-based company.