"To refer to the Washington 14th Street theaters as 'emerging' is almost patronizing," says Herb White, owner of the recently reopened Herb's Restaurant. "Most of these places have been around for 10 years."

White is the loving push and the dollar behind the first Winter Cast Bash benefit for the theaters at the restaurant tomorrow night.

Fourteenth Street has recently seen a mini-boom at theaters offering more experimental productions than the big road shows at the Kennedy Center or the National Theatre. Today, ambitious theatergoers can find the Source, Living Stage, Moving Target, Javarama, Studio, Woolly Mammoth and the New Playwrights' theaters within walking distance of one other.

"All arts groups are in constant change and growth," says Garland Scott of Source Theatre. "It's a very pivotal time because there's a sense of a lot of growth, and what's 'emerging' is an identity as a community, a theater district."

The benefit, which will feature the big-band swing of Doctor Scantlin and the Imperial Palms Orchestra and open-mike performances, celebrates not only the theaters' growing audience support, but Herb's resurrection at its new location, 17th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW.

Tickets are $25, with a reduced rate for members of the Actors Center. The party begins at 8 p.m. For reservations, call 333-4372.