Bess Welden

Bess Welden ( lives and makes theater in Portland, ME. She’s written over a dozen plays and librettos that center women and girls, and the lived experience of the female body.  She focuses on the complicated, powerful, and often fraught love in relationships between mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, and between sisters, and often explores their stories through both a contemporary and historical Jewish lens. She’s drawn to examining how ancient stories like myths and folktales collide and resonate with everyday life, and weaves poetry, songs, illustration, photography, puppets, and languages other than English into her work. Her full-length play Refuge Malja, winner of the Tel Aviv Jewish Plays Contest and a finalist in the 2020 National Jewish Playwriting Contest, premiered on Portland Stage’s mainstage and was nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2018. Her solo comedies The Passion of the Hausfrau (2009), Big Mouth Thunder Thighs (2013), and one-act Madeleines (2015) premiered in Portland Stage’s Studio Theater. Her newest play with songs, Death Wings, was a semi-finalist for the 2020 O’Neill New Play Conference and was recently workshopped with Boston’s Fresh Ink Theatre and Pawling Theater Exchange. Mergirl Saves the Waves, Bess’ feminist, environmentalist adaptation of The Little Mermaid, is in development supported by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission. She recently participated as an invited writer at the National Winter Playwrights Retreat (HBMG Foundation) in Grand Lake, CO and is currently a member of Company One Theatre (Boston) PlayLab Unit 2020 cohort. You can hear her 15-minute audio rom-coms “What I Miss Most” and “Under My Skin” on the Meet Cute Podcast (


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