Saturday, July 23, 2016

Spotlight On...Kim Saunders

Name: Kim Saunders

Hometown: Seattle

Education: University of Virginia, B.A. English & Music

Favorite Credits: Musical Director of Peter Pan in local community theater with all five of my kids ages 10-15 in the show (Blake=Smee, Heath=Peter, Trent=John, Alanna=Twin 1, Claire=Twin 2)

Why theater?: Musical theater is the most alive and dynamic art form that I know, and the most collaborative.

Tell us about Newton’s Cradle: Beyond our synopsis, Newton’s Cradle is a drama about how a family system can both build strengths and reinforce weaknesses in family members. This specific Newton family system is dealing with an autism diagnosis, and through the show Evan (who carries that label) comes to terms with the challenges his unique brain poses to his life, primary relationships, and sense of self. As he peels back the layers of experience and expectation, he uncovers new insight about his identity and the label that has been a part of its formation.

What inspired you to write Newton’s Cradle?: The question of when and how a label helps form identity, and when it hurts that process, is what sparked the development of Newton’s Cradle. Several years ago Heath and I worked with Evan, a college-age reed player, in an orchestra pit for a musical. He was kind of quirky but very much a comfortable part of the orchestra pit. One day we needed a viola player, and his (younger) sister joined us in the pit. Evan suddenly began behaving very differently, and it was obvious enough that we asked the director of the show what might be going on (she knew the family). It turns out that Evan had been diagnosed at a young age on the autism spectrum. This fact, and what we knew about how functional Evan was as a young adult, raised the specific question of what it meant for Evan to have an autism diagnosis. What kind of experiences in his family bound him to the diagnosis, and what experiences might have in some sense ‘freed’ him from the diagnosis? This question fascinated both Heath and I. Independently we each started working on the story – Heath wrote a song and I started a novel – before we sat together and decided that this would be a great seed of a musical.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love music, and I love music in the context of a theatrical event. Music is such a powerful storytelling tool, whether used in theater or dance or simply in a concert. I am inspired by musicals that address important issues to us as human beings. I am particularly drawn to work that grapples with issues that divide us from each other, and open up the possibility of change for us individually and collectively.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I think Quincy Jones has been a key influencer on multiple generations of musicians, and I would love to work with him. In theater, I think Diane Paulus is amazing and I would be honored to have a chance to work with her.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Recently, I have recommended Fun Home. Just this week I saw Hadestown at NYTW and thought it was amazing.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I would have loved to see the original cast of Rent. That seemed to be such a unique moment for the individual young artists involved in the piece, and for the theater community as a whole.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I read voraciously, which isn’t really a guilty pleasure. But part of what I enjoy are romance and romantic suspense, which I do consider a bit of a guilty pleasure.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: I have spent 25+ years working in high tech product development and marketing. While I worked as a musician in my 20’s (including keyboards/backup singer for Stacy Lattisaw), and had an active avocation musical directing in community theater while my kids were growing up, writing this musical is a career changing step for me.

What’s up next?: Heath and I have begun work on a new musical. So very exciting! ☺

For more on Newton's Cradle, visit and