Portland playwright and actor Bess Welden adapted “The Passion of the Hausfrau” into a web series for her pandemic project. Courtesy of Bess Welden

It began as a zine, became a graphic novel, and then a one-woman play. Now “The Passion of the Hausfrau” is a web TV series.

Bess Welden, a Portland-based theater artist, has adapted her one-woman comedy about the chaos of raising kids into a seven-episode web series filmed entirely in her home and available on YouTube. The original play, co-written with Annette Jolles and Nicole Chaison and produced by Portland Stage in 2009, was based on a zine, which later became a graphic novel, created by Chaison, a Portland author and illustrator. Welden incorporates some of Chaison’s illustrations and graphic elements in the web series, keeping alive the link to the original inspiration.

“We’re taking the Hausfrau’s quirky humor about raising kids to the small screen,” she said. “It’s been a real delight and light point in the midst of all the dark stuff going on right now, and totally unexpected.”

The web series is Welden’s pandemic project. Her son, Leo Hilton, lost his theater tech job in March, came home to Maine and helped his mom create the web series with assistance from other next-gen, super-creative and digitally savvy theater artists associated with Portland Stage, Todd Brian Backus and Hannah Cordes. “Hausfrau: The Web Series” debuted in early October, with new episodes coming every two weeks through mid-December. They originally hoped to do six episodes, but raised enough money through Indiegogo to produce seven. They vary in length, from 4 to 5 minutes to about 10 minutes each.

The story is about the misadventures of a housewife and mom, who comes to understand that the chaos of raising kids is part of her process of creating a masterpiece.

The idea for the web series did not come out of the blue. Before the pandemic, Portland Stage asked Welden to do a reading of the play as part of the theater’s planned focus on Maine playwrights during the bicentennial. The pandemic scuttled the theater’s plans to host readings, forcing a shift to the digital idea. At first, there was talk of Welden simply relearning the material and performing the play again so it could be recorded. But she didn’t love that idea, and asked, “How do we take something designed for live performance and tweak it and adapt it to a format we wanted to use?”

Portland Stage used some of its government-loan money for Welden to hire the artists and to pay for the pilot, and Welden raised the remainder to pay for the episodes. She consults with Cordes and Backus remotely for direction and conversations about the script and technical aspects of the production, while she and her son handle the in-house acting and filming. They have filmed in the kitchen, the bedroom, bathroom and laundry room.

“We’re transforming my house for the Hausfrau experience,” she said.

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