Actor Tom Atkins will fly in from Los Angeles tonight to give body to the poems of Ezra Pound, Pablo Neruda and William Butler Yeats; Pittsburgh percussionist Tom LaFlame will pack up three dozen instruments to frame Atkins' reading. Together, they will kick off the Word/Song series at the Barns at Wolf Trap.

Atkins says the program, which has been performed only twice during the last five years, was put together by Sam Hazo, director of the International Poetry Forum, which is based in Pittsburgh and which organized the Word/Song series. "I was a student of Sam's at Duquesne University in the '60s," Atkins recalls.

Atkins has established himself in Hollywood, though perhaps not in the way one might expect for someone who won a Drama Desk Award for his role in the Broadway production of David Storey's "The Changing Room": He just finished shooting "Halloween III" and also appears in George Romero's upcoming "Creepshow." He has had roles in "The Fog" and "Escape From New York," too.

" 'Halloween III' is much different from I and II," he insists. "Jamie Lee Curtis isn't in it and neither is the Shape, and there's no mass killings of nubile young girls. I'm the hero, I get to save the lives of 53 million children. But," he confesses sheepishly, "I don't know if I succeed. They shot it with several endings. I haven't seen a screening so I don't know which they used."

The burly Atkins doesn't mind typecasting. "It's part of this business to be typecast as one thing or another. I did hard-nose cops on television so many times I thought I was typecast as that for a while. But theater just doesn't afford a living. I don't know if it ever did. Sooner or later you want to buy a house and you can't do it in the theater."

"Word and Drum" will be performed at the Barns tonight at 7:30 and tomorrow at 8 p.m.