The financially jeopardized New Playwrights Theatre -- buoyed by community support, but still $20,112 short of its announced goal to raise $86,000 by June 30 -- will extend its fund-raising campaign through Aug. 15, postponing a decision on whether to shut down.

"We feel we've come so near that we can't close the theater at this time," said NPT's founder and artistic director, Harry Bagdasian, yesterday. In April, faced with an accumulated debt of $21,000 and a projected shortfull of $41,000 this season, Bagdasian announced that the 10-year-old theater, devoted exclusively to new works, would fold permanently at the end of this month without an infusion of $86,000.

Bagdasian said that he and his trustees are now "optimistic" about the chances of the theater's having an 11th season. Subscriptions are being sold and 42 percent of NPT's 1,200 subscribers already have renewed. That money, however, is being held in escrow and will be refunded if the season fails to materialize.

To date, the theater has raised $45,388, mostly in individual contributions ranging from $5 to $2,500. In addition, it has pledges for $20,500 more, including $15,000 from the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation. The pledges, however, become active only when NPT has reached the $65,500 mark and make up the final portion. That leaves what Bagdasian calls "the middle portion," $20,112, to be raised by mid-August.

"I don't feel that we're backing down on our ultimatum," he said. "The grant process is so slow that we feel we need more time. Several major gifts are still pending."

In the prevailing spirit of caution, the NPT board, augmented by seven new members, has given the green light for a summer show, "The New, Improved, Bride of Sirocco," a revue of songs and sketches from past musicals by Tim Grundmann, along with some fresh material, to run July 7 through Aug. 15. In addition, two more fund-raising events have been scheduled: a special performance of "Bride," followed by food and drink on July 15; and a benefit party at Cagney's to be hosted on July 28 by The Washington Tribune with proceeds going to NPT and the Source Theater.

If the $86,000 goal is met, Bagdasian has lined up a five-play season, starting in October with Michael Wright's "Blood Relations," a drama about a father-son confrontation. A new musical by Cornelia Ravenal, "Out of the Reach of Children," would come next. Three additional productions then would be chosen from "Four of a Kind," a comedy by John Nassivera; "The Flesh Eaters," a drama about blacklisting by Ernest Joselovitz; "And They Dance Real Slow in Jackson," a drama by Jim Leonard; and NPT's traditional bill of one-act plays.