The Sundance Institute, a development center for American stage and screen, is extending its support for new work to include theater for children. The new Sundance Children's Theatre will begin operation in the summer of 1991 and is now soliciting drafts of stage works for children from leading American playwrights.

The new program will have three components: play development, play production and the filming of plays developed at Sundance.Invited writers will bring their plays to Sundance to be workshopped during the annual Playwrights' Laboratory in July, when a company of 60 actors, directors and other support artists will gather to serve as resources. Completed plays will be published and distributed to producers and theater companies.

Production of plays for children will also begin in July with a season of two plays running in repertory at the Sundance resort through Labor Day. The plays will be performed four days each week, with two performances each day - shortly after lunch and at 6 p.m.

Robert Redford, the institute's founder, announced that leadership for the Sundance Children's Theatre program will be: Jerry Patch, artistic director; Emanual Azenburg, general producer; David Kirk Chambers, managing director, and David Kranes, program consultant.

Patch has been the dramaturg at South Coast Repertory Theatre since 1976, during with time the theater, based in Costa Mesa, Calif., has emerged as a leader in American play development. He has been a director and dramaturg at Sundance since 1987 and has written or coauthored seven plays for children.

"While millions of people attend theater for youth each year, there is no organized effort to create a body of stage literature for children beyond the individual ad hoc efforts of the theaters meeting their own production needs," Patch said. "We want the best writers working in dramatic forms today to give something back to their art by beginning a work for children. We want to bring those works to Sundance to make use of the talent gathered here each summer to help realize their vision."

Azenburg, a leading Broadway producer since 1966, has mounted productions which have earned 96 Tony Award nominations and 36 awards. Recently, he has expanded his interests into film, including Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," the recent Grand Prize winner at the Venice Film Festival.

Kranes has been the artistic director of the Sundance Playwrights' Lab since 1982. He is a novelist and playwright and on the faculty at the University of Utah.

Chambers has been the director of performing arts programs at Sundance since 1985. Previously, he was producing director at Salt Lake Acting Company for five years. He will oversee the day-to-day operations of both the Playwrights' Lab and the Children's Theatre.

"Now that we have commitments of major new funding, we have decided to go forward in 1991," Redford said. The program has received more than $750,000 in funding commitments from the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation in Utah to launch the program.

The funds will be used to help underwrite the first two seasons and to construct a new outdoor Children's Theatre stage, which will open in 1992.

For this first season, involvement of actors and script submission will be by invitation only.