As the 1980s dawned, Kernochan was back with her music, composing the score for the stage work "Sleeparound Town" which was produced Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizon. Returning to the scene of her biggest success--film--she was one of the credited writers (along with Patricia Louisiana Knop and Zalman King) on the sexually-charged. Intense look at sadomasochism, "9 1/2 Weeks" (1986). Her first solo effort, "Dancers" (1987), offered a strong role for ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov as a lothario involved in backstage politicking, but the overall execution of the piece lacked coherence. Kernochan fared better collaborating with her husband playwright-director James Lapine on "Impromptu" (1991), an historical drama that adopted a predominantly lighthearted tone in detailing the the sexual shenanigans of such figures as George Sand, Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt and their circle. Her literate script and Lapine's astute handling of a dream cast (that included Judy Davis, Bernadette Peters, Emma Thompson and Julian Sands) resulted in a gem-like spin on the oft-told tales. As a follow-up, Kernochan worked on the screenplay for "Sommersby" (1993), the Americanization of the successful 1982 French film "Le Retour de Martin Guerre/The Return of Martin Guerre." She was hired specifically to develop the female lead in this version of the story which shifted the setting from 16th-century Europe to 19th-century America just following the Civil War. While the film captured the period feel and offered a reasonable reinterpretation of the original, something was lost in the final translation, although much of the blame lay in the lack of romantic chemistry between leads Richard Gere and Jodie Foster than with the script. Five years later, Kernochan mined her own upbringing for her feature directorial debut "The Hairy Bird," about the impending merger of two same sex schools to form a co-ed institution. While not strictly autobiographical, the writer-director drew on her experiences as a student at the all-female Rosemary Hall (which eventually merged with the all-male Choate) for this delightful incursion into teen girl power. Well-cast with established and rising talent (Kirsten Dunst, Heather Matarazzo, Rachael Leigh Cook, Gaby Hoffman, Monica Keena, etc.), the film was relegated to a regional release under the uninspired title "Strike" by Miramax. Producer Ira Deutchman so believed in the project he entered into protracted negotiations to re-acquire distribution rights, finally succeeding in late 1999. Re-launched in 2000 under yet another title "All I Wanna Do," the film received several positive notices but little audience support. Kernochan returned to non-fiction filmmaking profiling NYC street performer Stephen Kaufman a.k.a. "Thoth" (2001), in a documentary short that earned an Academy Award nomination.