For the fifth year, Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North, is presenting a series of free spring readings of new plays for the next three Monday evenings.

"The Free Spring Readings Series have been enormously popular," according to SLAC Artistic Director Edward J. Gryska. `People like just listening and imagining. They like the informality. The readings are part of SLAC's continued commitment to new plays and playwright."The three plays selected for the 1989 series have a common thread. They are all set in Utah locales.

The plays and playwrights are:

-"A LITTLE LESS THAN KIN: THE UTAH PLAYS," by Julie Jensen. Director: Jean Roberts. Cast: Debora Lynn Threedy, Rebecca Hunt, Carol Zic and William G. Stockholm. Stage manager: Annie Draper. Monday at 7:30 p.m.

These are two one-act plays, both set in small Utah towns. The first, "Day of the Races," is about two women, Aunt Clarinth and Rene, who assuage themselves over Kool-Aid and whiskey while they try to figure out men, marriage, love and horses. In "Sweet Tuesday Falls," Macel Jessup, Flora Roots and Nina Rue LaRue are busy planning the Fourth of July celebration when Macel's son, Collis, just back from being evicted from the Navy, leaves the house and sits nude in the family car with the windows up. The play focuses on how Macel and her friends deal with this strange turn of events.

Jensen grew up in rural southern Utah and was educated at the College of Southern Utah and Utah State University. She left Utah in 1965 and now teaches theater and playwriting at Saint Mary's College in South Bend, Ind.

A serious playwright for 12 years, Jensen's work has been professionally produced in Detroit, New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Albany, N.Y.

Her "Old Wives Tale," a full-length play set in Utah, was produced by the Women's Project of the American Place Theatre in New York City, and, in 1986, her play, "Stray Dogs," won the CBS/FDG New Play Competition and was subsequently produced at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.

Recently, Jensen has been negotiating with Norman Lear about writing for television.

-"THE GHOSTMAN," by Wendy Hammond. Director: Allen Nevins. Cast: Marilyn Holt, Bob Hart, Vicki Eccel, Beverly Rowland, Grant Gottschall, Don Glover, Steve Flether, Kevin Hassett, Beth Hassett, Marie Newman, Tony Larimer and George Sullivan. (This play will be part of SLAC's 1989-90 season.) May 1, 7:30 p.m.

This play is about a Helper coal miner named Scott. Following the death of his father, his mind begins to slip. As his sanity falls apart, this deeply religious LDS man sees visions of his father sexually abusing him when he was a child. Are these memories or part of his terrible insanity? "The Ghostman" is a play about finding the truth and the tragic consequences of denial in a common man who has the courage to face that truth.

Hammond has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Utah and a master's degree in fine arts from New York University's Dramatic Writing Program. She now lives in Hoboken, N.J., and has taught writing courses in a number of colleges and in the prison ward of Bellevue Hospital.

"The Ghostman" has been workshopped at the River Arts Repertory theater in Woodstock, N.Y., and was produced by the Renegade Theatre. Another of her works, "Jersey City," is a 1988 Drama League winner and will be produced off-Broadway at the Second Stage this summer. Hammond has just been awarded a $10,000 McKnight Playwriting Fellowship and a $20,000 Playwrights Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

-"RIO ESMERELDA," by Erin Cressida Wilson. Director: Shaun Elam. Cast: Sue Ball, Jean Roberts, Don Glover and Stephen Randall. Stage manager: Susan Floyd. May 8, 7:30 p.m.

This production has a woman named Esmerelda lounging by the side of the highway in the Utah desert on her brass-framed bed, waiting for an ex-lover from 30 years ago (Dennis) to show up and rekindle their affair. The rendezvous is interrupted by Esmerelda's runaway daughter, Chris.

Playwright Wilson, who is also an actress, is a native of San Francisco who enjoys Utah. She's also the author of "Dakota's Belly, Wyoming," which received workshops and productions at the Sundance Institute and a number of other theaters.

Other plays by Wilson include "The Soiled Eyes of a Ghost," winner of this year's New York Drama League Award and a California Playwrights competition sponsored by South Coast Rep; "Flying Hormones," a musical that will be aired on National Public Radio in May, and "When the Girls Come Out to Play."

Wilson recently received a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Rockefeller grant and a California Arts Council grant. This summer will be her third year at the Sundance Playwriting Lab. She is also a member of the Playwrights and Actors labs at Circle Repertory Theatre in New York City.

All of the Spring Readings Series productions are free and open to the public. Citicorp/Citybank is a sponsor of the series.

"It is very important for writers to hear their plays," Gryska noted. "I know how helpful it was for David Kranes to hear `1102 and 1103' when it was part of our readings last year."

("1102 and 1103" is currently being staged at SLAC.)

Hammond will be coming to Salt Lake City from New York to be involved with the reading of her play on May 1. Wilson will attend the rehearsals of "Rio Esmerelda," but will be unable to stay for the May 8 reading due to a previous commitment to be in California for a reading of "The Soiled Eyes of a Ghost" at South Coast Rep.