FILM

WHEN I WAS A YOUNG GIRL, I WROTE, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED TWO DOCUMENTARY FILMS FOR THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION AND A TV PROGRAM FOR PUBLIC TELEVISION. ONE FILM WAS SENT TO THE VENICE FILM FESTIVAL, WHERE IT WON NOTHING. BUT I WAS VERY PROUD.
WHEN I LEFT THE SMITHSONIAN I HAD JUST BEEN PROMOTED TO HEAD OF THE NEW DEPARTMENT OF FILM AND TV, BUT NEVER HAD A CHANCE TO DO MORE.

YOU CAN'T GET HOLD OF THESE OLD FILMS NOW, BUT I LIST THEM ANYWAY:

THE SMITHONSONIAN'S WHALE (ABOUT WHALING)
THE LEAF THIEVES (ABOUT A BOTANICAL EXPEDITION TO SOUTH AMERICA)
THE MUSIC OF SHAKESPEARE'S TIME (FOR WETA, PUBLIC TV)

MOST OF MY NOVELS HAVE BEEN OPTIONED FOR FILM, BUT ALAS! NONE MADE. THAT'S THE WAY IT IS IN HOLLYWOOD.

MY STAGE PLAYS HAVE HAD MORE SUCCESS.


THEATER

IN LOVE WITH THEATER, I WAS A FOUNDING MEMBER OF THE STUDIO THEATER IN WASHINGTON, D.C. I SERVED AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE FUND FOR NEW AMERICAN PLAYS AT THE JOHN F. KENNEDY CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS.

MY STAGE PLAYS ARE FREE TO READ OR PRODUCE. IF YOU PERFORM A PLAY OR ANY PART OF ONE, I WOULD APPRECIATE THE COURTESY OF A NOTE. THANK YOU. sophyb@verizon.net


STAGE PLAYS

"PENELOPE" SAMPLE
FULL TEXT
A CLASSICAL GREEK TRAGEDY IN THREE ACTS


"PENELOPE" TELLS THE STORY OF WHAT HAPPENS ON PENELOPE'S WEDDING DAY, WHEN A SAILOR IS WASHED ASHORE, ANNOUNCES HE IS ODYSSEUS (HER HUSBAND RETURNED AFTER TWENTY YEARS' ABSENCE AT WAR) AND PROCEEDS TO SLAUGHTER ALL THE GUESTS IN HER HOUSE. AND WHAT SHE DOES ABOUT IT. A THREE-ACT CLASSICAL GREEK TRAGEDY, TRUE TO THE CLASSICAL UNITIES. THIS PLAY IS TRUE ALSO TO THE ODYSSEY ITSELF, EXCEPTING A TINY SHIFT OF POINT OF VIEW. . . WHICH CHANGES EVERYTHING.

GRANT RECIPIENT FROM THE PRESTIGIOUS OFFICE OF ADVANCED DRAMA RESEARCH, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
EPISCOPAL DRAMA AWARD FOR BEST PLAY
SEATTLE THEATER'S BEST WOMEN'S PLAY AWARD
READINGS, MARVIN CENTER, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY (D.C.)
READINGS, THE AMERICAN PLACE THEATER (NEW YORK)
PRODUCED AT NEW PLAYWRIGHTS' THEATER (WASHINGTON, D.C.)
PRODUCED ON PACIFICA RADIO, STARRING JOY ZINOMAN, LATER ARTISTIC AND MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE STUDIO THEATRE (WASHINGTON, D.C.), DIRECTED BY MOLLY SMITH, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF ARENA STAGE (WASHINGTON, D.C.)
STAGED READING, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY THEATER 


"PROMETHEUS" SAMPLE
FULL TEXT
A CLASSICAL GREEK TRAGEDY IN TWO ACTS

"I WOULD JOIN SISYPHUS IN HADES AND GLADLY PUSH MY BOULDER UP THE SLOPE IF ONLY, EACH TIME IT ROLLED BACK DOWN, I WERE GIVEN A LINE OF AESCHYLUS." – A. E. HOUSMAN IN TOM STOPPARD'S THE INVENTION OF LOVE.

A NEW TRANSLATION OF AESCHYLUS' PROMETHEUS BOUND, BURNHAM'S "PROMETHEUS" GIVES A NEW TRANSLATION OF THE AESCHYLUS PLAY TOGETHER WITH A MODERN IMAGINING OF THE LOST CONCLUSION, "PROMETHEUS RELEASED."

ACT I (THE AESCHYLUS PLAY) BELONGS TO THE REBEL, PROMETHEUS, NAILED TO A ROCK IN THE CAUCASUS MOUNTAINS FAR FROM CIVILIZATION IN PUNISHMENT FOR HAVING GIVEN HUMANKIND THE GIFT OF FIRE AGAINST THE COMMANDS OF ZEUS. THE NEW ACT II BELONGS TO ZEUS, WHO GIVES HIS POINT OF VIEW. PROMETHEUS, NOW RELEASED 30,000 YEARS LATER, DEBATES WITH THE FATHER-GOD. BURNHAM'S PLAY INCLUDES (FOR THE FIRST TIME ON-STAGE IN SOME 2,400 YEARS) AESCHYLUS' MAGNIFICENT EAGLE SPEECH AS WELL AS HIS ASTOUNDING PREMONITIONS THAT A NEW GOD, BORN OF A VIRGIN, WILL ONE DAY UPROOT ANCIENT ZEUS.

PRODUCED AT THE STUDIO THEATRE (WASHINGTON, DC.), DIRECTED BY JOY ZINOMAN
HELEN HAYES AWARD NOMINEE

 

"THE STUDY" (ALSO PRODUCED AS "SNOWSTORMS")
SAMPLE
FULL TEXT
A MODERN PLAY IN THREE ACTS

FUNNY AND UPLIFTING, THE PLAY OPENS AS THREE GROWN CHILDREN MUST BREAK INTO THEIR CHILDHOOD HOME TO DISCOVER WHY THEIR MOTHER HAS ORDERED THEM HOME. IS THEIR STROKE-RIDDEN FATHER DYING? EVEN DEAD? NO, IT TURNS OUT THEIR MOTHER, FREIDA, HAS DECIDED AFTER 40 YEARS OF MARRIAGE SHE WANTS A DIVORCE: WHICH OF THE THREE WILL TAKE THEIR FATHER AND CARE FOR HIM?

THIS IS A STORY OF LOVE AND FORGIVENESS, OF THE SEARCH FOR MEANING IN LIFE, AND OF THE TANGLE OF PHYSICAL AND SPIRIT WORLDS.

I HAVE WRITTEN EIGHT PLAYS BUT ONLY A FEW MADE IT TO FULL PRODUCTION. AT ONE POINT, SEARCHING FOR AN AGENT, I SENT THE STUDY TO THE FAMOUS THEATER AGENT AUDREY WOOD, AGENT FOR TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, AMONG OTHERS. SHE ASKED ME TO MEET HER AT HER GLITTERING SKYSCRAPER OFFICE IN NEW YORK CITY. I ARRIVED, SCARED AND EXCITED, TO FIND A FRAIL OLDER WOMAN SEATED BEHIND HER DESK. SHE PEERED AT ME SHARPLY, THUMBING THE PLAY SCRIPT BEFORE HER.

"IS IT TRUE?" SHE ASKED

"IS WHAT TRUE?

""WHAT YOU WRITE HERE? IS THIS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DIE?"

"YES."

WE STARED AT EACH OTHER A MOMENT THEN SHE DROPPED HER EYES. "I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE ON YOUR PLAY," SHE SAID STIFFLY. "I'M NOT TAKING ON ANY NEW PROJECTS NOW. I'M SICK. I'M RETIRING. I HAVEN'T THE ENERGY." HER EYES FLICKERING AROUND THE WALLS. "I JUST WANTED TO ASK YOU WHAT YOU KNOW – ABOUT WHAT WILL HAPPEN."

AND SO WE SPOKE OF THE THINGS THE PLAY IS ABOUT, AND I LEFT, THE SCRIPT WEIGHING DOWN MY BAG AND MY HEART HEAVY WITH DISAPPOINTMENT. I WAS TOO INSECURE, TOO VULNERABLE, TO ASK HER TO PASS THE PLAY ON TO SOMEONE ELSE AT THE COMPANY, IF SHE HAD LIKED IT SO MUCH, AND NEITHER DID SHE SUGGEST IT HERSELF. (THIS LACK OF CRASS CHUTZPAH HAS ALWAYS BEEN MY FAILING.)

I WENT AWAY, BUT MAYBE THE PLAY HAD DONE ITS WORK; IT TOUCHED THE HEART OF A FRIGHTENED WOMAN FACING DEATH.


"THE MEANING OF LIFE"
15-MINUTE PLAY


RADIO PLAYS
PLAYS PRODUCED ON NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO'S CHILDREN'S RADIO

"THE WITCH'S TALE"
LISTEN TO
THE WITCH'S TALE
RECIPIENT OF THE BEST CHILDREN'S RADIO PLAY AWARD FROM THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITY BROADCASTERS 


 "BEAUTY AND THE BEAST"

"THE EMPEROR'S NIGHTINGALE"  
STAGED AT THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION (WASHINGTON, D.C.)    

ARCHIVED AUDIO RECORDINGS OF BURNHAM'S RADIO PLAYS CAN BE FOUND AT THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.