Q&A with Penny Saunders:
Returning to PNB and to Wonderland

During our 2020 digital season, PNB premiered Wonderland by choreographer Penny Saunders. Wonderland, a New Work and world premiere, paid homage to the marvel and magic of live theater, and has only ever existed digitally, until now. More than two years later, Penny is back at PNB to transpose her piece for in-person performances in March 2023. So we asked her about returning to Wonderland.

How does it feel to return to Wonderland in 2023?

Almost three years from its premiere, I am overjoyed to be revisiting Wonderland again. A lot has changed in the world since we created this piece and it has been interesting to find new ways to maintain the essence of the work while happily adjusting to a live audience.

How has your approach to Wonderland changed since its digital premiere?

The emptiness and inherent sadness of a vacant theater is no longer the main source of inspiration, instead an overwhelming sense of gratitude and awe takes precedence, as we celebrate the theater in all of its magical capacities.

What is the biggest change moving this piece from digital to in-person at McCaw Hall?

There are quite a few changes being made to this work. In the filmed version, we danced in several vacant spaces of the theater as a way to amplify the vast emptiness we witnessed in that very unique moment in time. Now that we are back to performing to live audiences, the logistics of the pit being full of instruments, and the theater’s house being full of people, becomes a huge and welcomed change. Although the way we deliver the message has altered, the essence of the work remains the same, which is to celebrate the beauty of a shared experience.

What is unique about working with PNB?

The artists of PNB are exposed to such a wide range of repertory, so their embodied physical knowledge is broad and inspiring. To collaborate with these amazing artists is a truly wonderful and humbling experience for me as a choreographer.

What should audiences look forward to in Wonderland?

As the title suggests, Wonderland will hopefully incite a sense of wonder and curiosity through the immersive nature of the work. I hope audiences will be able to see dance from a shifted perspective and perhaps leave the theatre feeling as though they were an intricate part of the experience.

Come see the new Wonderland along with two world premieres at Boundless from March 17-26, 2023. Support the cost and creation of original works by donating to PNB’s New Works Initiative. Through our New Works Initiative, PNB has funded more than 130 original creations, including Wonderland, since 2005.

Photos: Elle Macy and Dylan Wald in Penny Saunder’s Wonderland © Lindsay Thomas.