Film & Stage
“But for me, when young and growing, that lovely shock {of joy} came primarily from three things which are not “books” at all: from poetry, as I’ve said; from radio, which was at its peak as an imaginative medium in England when I was between ten and fifteen years old; and, above all, from the theater. My mother tells me that I was first taken to the theater when I was about three—to that Christmas institution in England known as the pantomime. I sat there enchanted, she says, not a whit puzzled by our transvestite tradition in which the hero of a pantomime is played by a strapping girl and the hero’s mother by a large hairy man. And when it was all over and the curtain came down, I sat unmoving in my seat, and I howled and howled. All the others left on their legs, but they had to carry me out. I couldn’t believe that this wonderful, magical new world, in which I had been totally absorbed, had vanished away. I wanted to bring it back again. I suppose I’ve been trying to bring it back again, in one way or another, ever since.”
Acting Out Acting Out
For grades 3 to 7
Simon & Schuster

Six one-act plays by six Newbery-Award-winning authors: Avi, Sharon Creech, Susan Cooper, Patricia MacLachlan, Katherine Paterson, and Richard Peck.

  Praise for Acting Out:
Acting Out
“Each play was inspired by a theater-improv game in which the authors started with the selection of a single word. The pieces all include the following words: ‘dollop,’ ‘hoodwink,’ ‘Justin,’ ‘knuckleball,’ ‘panhandle,’ and ‘raven.’ Part of the fun is in seeing how these playwrights incorporate them into their stories. Most are humorous, and they all have many young characters. Production requirements range from easy to difficult. An engaging choice for literature and acting classes as well as general reading.”


A Revels performance of St George and the Dragon. Photo copyright Sheppard Ferguson
For twenty years I wrote for my friend Jack Langstaff, for the marvelous joyful Revels productions he created for generations of audiences. I wrote verse, short plays, song lyrics, anything he needed. The material each year was partly from my own familiar English tradition of pantomime and mummer’s plays (one of which was reworked into The Magician’s Boy, and its tale of St George and the Dragon) but also from Appalachian folk traditions, or from world cultures—a Cape Breton mast-raising, a Finnish creation myth, a French fable. Often we rewrote and perfected pieces during rehearsal, working together with the actors, directors and crew, right up until that magical moment when the house lights dim...

For more about Revels, its performances, public events, and school programs, go to My 2011 book The Magic Maker is a portrait of Jack and the beginnings of Revels.

Susan Cooper, Foxfire
Taking a break from production notes on the set of Foxfire, playwright’s clipboard in hand.

While seeking out monologues for the actors Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in the late 1970s, I came across the Foxfire Magazine interviews with an amazing woman called Arie Carpenter. The material inspired us to go beyond our original intent, and Hume and I ended up writing the Foxfire play together. Jessica played the character based on “Aunt Arie,” Hume played the ghost of her husband, and Keith Carradine plays their musician son. It went to Broadway in 1982, for which Jessica won a Tony Award for Best Actress (and an Emmy for the TV special). I’m pleased to say Foxfire is still being performed on the regional stage.

Praise for Foxfire:

“What is being struck on the stage of Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theater is the rarely heard chord of all-embracing humanity. This play quivers with laughter and stabs the heart. It speaks for things too long mute: love of the land, the inviolability of the family, the rigorous ethic of hard work and the rebuke and solace of an omnipresent God.”

Firefox on stage Foxfire
Stage Playbook
Play written by Susan Cooper and Hume Cronyn
Available from Samuel French

Drama, with music, with 4 male roles, 2 female, plus 2 musicians.

Foxfire, the movie
(Hallmark Hall of Fame)
Screenplay adaptation by Susan Cooper

Director: Jud Taylor
Starring: Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, and John Denver

Available from Hallmark and

Emmy Award nomination, Outstanding Writing in a Special
Writers Guild of America Award, for Adaptation

The Foxfire Books
The Foxfire Books

The Foxfire books are written and produced by high-school students of Rabun County GA, part of a learning approach originated by teacher Eliot Wigginton in 1966. The magazine and related projects help to preserve the vanishing pioneer culture of southern Appalachia. Learn more at

Shadows Shadows
Series 2, “Dark Encounter” episode
Available at

My first foray into television was an episode of Shadows, a British television series produced by Thames Television in the mid-1970s. It was an anthology series of original supernatural tales for children. Other authors included Joan Aiken, Penelope Lively, and JB Priestley. They’re out now in DVD, but only in formats for the UK.

In the 1980s I began to write television screenplays alternately with novels. Jane Fonda turned me into a screenwriter, by reading Foxfire and hiring me and Hume Cronyn to write a TV film adaptation of The Dollmaker. After that, people decided I must be good at adaptations of books about Appalachia, and I was hired for two more.

The Dollmaker The Dollmaker

This is our TV film adaptation of The Dollmaker, Harriet Arnow’s powerful novel about a rural Kentucky family struggling against industrialization.┬áIt was aired on ABC in 1984 (Jane won a Best Actress Emmy), and is available used on VHS.

The Christopher Award
The Humanitas Prize
Silver Hugo Award
Emmy Award nomination, Outstanding Writing in a Special
Writers Guild of America Award for Adaptation

To Dance with the White Dog To Dance with the White Dog

I adapted Terry Kay’s novel for another Hallmark Hall of Fame special, in 1993. It starred Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy—Jessica’s last appearance in a film.

Available from

Available from Hallmark.

Jewel Jewel

Jewel is my adaptation of Bret Lott’s novel about a mother fighting the institutionalization of her Down Syndrome daughter in the 1940s. It was produced by CBS in 2001.

You can watch this movie on Netflix.

Nominated for the Humanitas Prize