The fourth annual Midtown International Theatre Festival (MITF) is eight months away, but playwrights who want to participate only have eight weeks to submit their works for consideration.

The next MITF will be held in July and August at the Abingdon Theatre Company's new venue, located at 312 West 36th Street. Freshly carved out of raw space, the space contains a 99-seat theater and a 50-seat theater, each of which comes equipped with basic lighting and sound equipment.

A total of 26 shows were presented during the third annual MITF earlier this year, ranging from a musical comedy about the inventor of mustard gas to a comedic look at the rivalry between fans of Star Wars and Star Trek. John Chatterton, the festival's executive producer and artistic director, hopes to up that number to more than 30 plays and musicals in 2003. He is particularly enthusiastic about musicals, based on ticket sales from previous festivals, but stresses that non-musicals will not be automatically rejected. He also hopes that authors will submit more children's theater scripts -- meaning, he emphasizes, scripts for shows in which "adults perform for children, not the other way around."

For consideration, authors should send completed works to The Midtown International Theatre Festival, 347 West 36th Street, #1204, New York, NY 10018. Submissions must be received no later than January 15; each script must be accompanied by an application form (available for download at www.oobr.com) and a check or money order to cover a $30 reading fee. The website for the festival, www.oobr.com, encourages applicants to send along additional material, such as a representative videotape, an audiotape of the submitted show's music, bios of the artists and staff who are involved in the project(s), and reviews of any previous productions. "Applications should include enough details to convince the committee that you can not only put on a good production but have a shot at selling tickets," the website further advises.

Successful applicants will be notified by e-mail around March 1 that their works have been chosen. To continue, they will then need to pay a non-refundable $100 participation fee and post a refundable security deposit of $150. Although these amounts may be higher than those required for some other showcasing opportunities, authors stand to save money in the long run, since the MITF does not retain rights to any financial participation in the shows it presents.

For additional information about the Midtown International Theatre Festival, e-mail mitf4@oobr.com or festival@oobr.com.