WETA's Richard Hutton and Darcy Corcoran begin an experiment this week, a real-life soap opera that they hope will hook local viewers.

Title: "Nine Months." Actors: Eight area women expecting babies in March. Plot: whatever life deals them.

Because the project is unprecedented, executive producer Hutton and series producer Corcoran admit that they aren't certain how it will unfold. That, they say, will be largely up to the women they have chosen. Hutton calls it "active, not passive television."

WETA will check in with them each week as the women's pregnancies progress, allowing the expectant moms, all volunteers, to explore those areas they find interesting. Taping will be at a WETA set designed to resemble a living room. The weekly chats will sometimes include husbands and boyfriends and any guests the women might request.

Hutton and Corcoran hope that viewers will become so entranced with the women, their problems and their discoveries that they'll keep tuning in as the real-life drama unfolds. In March, or whenever the births begin, WETA hopes to be there, at least for some of them, said Hutton.

The eight range from a 15-year-old single woman expecting her first child to a 36-year-old married woman who is the mother of a 15-year-old daughter.

They are:

Latricia, 15, single, from Southeast. This is her first pregnancy.

Malisia, 17, married, from Rockville. She has a four-month-old son.

Eliska, 19, single, from Northeast. She has a 4-year-old daughter.

Lori, 26, divorced, from Southeast. She has a 7-year-old daughter.

Sarah, 28, married, from Chevy Chase, Md. This is her first pregnancy.

Devette, 28, married, from Lanham. She has a 2 1/2-year-old son.

Robin, 34, married, from Herndon, Va. She has a 2-year-old daughter.

Leslie, 36, married, from Annandale. She has a son, 12, and daughter, 15.

WETA's "Nine Months" also includes an ambitious outreach project aimed at helping to lower the District's high infant mortality rate. Tapes of the weekly series and printed materials will be offered to hospital and clinic waiting rooms, churches and schools to reach minority and low-income persons who may not be regular WETA viewers.

Corcoran, an independent producer who holds a 1989 Cine Golden Eagle Award, said early 200 volunteers were interviewed for the eight places.

Neither Corcoran nor Hutton, who is WETA senior vice president for television programming and production, are married or parents. But after they watched the eight women getting to know one another recently, they said they believe they have the makings of something interesting.

Each "Nine Months" installment will air Tuesdays at noon, repeating Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.