TheFutureIsHereProductions© takes you into Xchel Hernández–Zendejas’s second sortie as director, the play It is a Wonderful Lie, a raucous yet delightful comedy which has the viewer laughing from the beginning to the end. For sure, it is a play where the Millennials live the world as theirs, their mirror image. In this superb play, Xchel is joined by several outstanding actors who never break character but project their personality and concerns into the world: Sebastian Karantonis, Rosamond Danielle– Hopkins, Neeltarni, John Meehan, Grace Presse, Ian Zandi and, and Tim Prendergast. The play, It’s a Wonderful Lie, is the first of three plays commissioned to Xchel this year by The Second City in Hollywood.
From It’s a Wonderful Life to It’s a Wonderful Lie: Generational Dialogue
LH: For The Second City in Hollywood, your last play, as a director, Tragical History Tour, centered on Creation and humanity’s current questionable stewardship of Nature. In what direction are you and your actors taking the viewer in It’s a Wonderful Life?
XCHEL: We built this project as a group. The thing about every group is that everyone’s concerns will be different. My first show, Tragical History Tour, centered on humanity’s current questionable stewardship of Nature because that was the group’s focus. All of our ideas are discussed throughout the process. Through that, we aim our comedy in a direction. The scene is the vehicle and the destination is our view on the topic of choice.
LH: Are there any plot links between your play It’s a Wonderful Lie and the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) by Frank Capra and Starring James Stewart? The film is about a man named George who has given up on his dreams of helping others, but a guardian angel shows him he actually has touched many people lives in many positive ways.
XCHEL: There is no conscious link between It’s a Wonderful Lie and It’s a Wonderful Life. At The Second City, shows are named based upon puns. At the time, the title resonated with me. I am sure there are plenty of subconscious decisions I made throughout that process that brought these two pieces closer. All art is inspired by previous art and I am merely standing on the shoulder of giants.
Doing It for Laughs and Truth
LH: A group of citizens who believe in government conspiracies (instead of researching outcomes) and computer chips that change the news to fit the viewer’s values, both things figure in your play. What does that say about today’s society?
XCHEL: It says we are unwilling, by fear or stubbornness, to understand complex issues.
LH: One of the themes in the play is growth through musical tastes: going from the band Nickleback to a new one. How does this cultural change in the young character speak to music tastes among Millennials?
XCHEL: It speaks to all generations. Everyone grew up listening to music that no longer resonates with us. The scene was about how our past lives still want importance within our current lives but we choose to move forward.
LH: It’s a Wonderful Lie dwells a lot into media, like Netflix and HBO, the last season of Game of Thrones, TV commercials, and chaos in people’s lives, like divorce and beer for kids. What does that say about life among your generation?
XCHEL: My initial response is to say that we’re doing it for the laughs, but all comedy has a kernel of truth. In the show, I wanted to focus on the messages we receive from outside forces and onto what we choose to give importance.
Against Domination: Gender Diversity and Whiteman
LH: A male fighting for diversity in a female dominant company and an out of place superhero named Whiteman, what is the message behind such characters in your play? Is there is new male among Millennials who need help in adapting to contemporary society?
XCHEL: Both scenes do feature an outcast, but each for different reasons. In the female dominant company, we were saying that absolute power corrupts. In a world of domination, the strongest will take advantage of their non-equals. As for Whiteman, we wanted a way to highlight someone trying to overcompensate for his previous discrepancies.
LH: How did your actors and you come to the idea of creating the character Whiteman? In what ways does he speak or represent mainstream America? In what ways is he dialoguing with an America made up of people of color? Is he the protagonist, a displaced one, in It’s a Wonderful Life?
XCHEL: Whiteman was an idea brought out from a brainstorm and nurtured through several rehearsals. The overall message was that of a man forcing his way in and trying to make up for his past discrepancies.
Comedy: Pushing Societal Limits
LH: In It’s a Wonderful Lie, your artistic objective is to challenge limits. Can you give us a “challenge” example? What is it that you seek to achieve via this challenge?
XCHEL: We made a commercial called “Beer 4 Kidz” that featured children drinking. Most adults are uncomfortable with the idea of children drinking, so we used that to say marketing can make horrible ideas likable. By pushing the limits, we hope to make the audience pay attention to our messages. We grow by pushing limits that will either fail or succeed.
LH: Many scenes in this play have each a metacommentary. Via this dramatic strategy, what effect are you seeking from the viewer?
XCHEL: My comedy will always feature metacommentary because I am using comedy as a weapon. We are picking out absurdities of our lives and presenting them to the audience as a conversation to be had.
LH: So, in your play, is there any dialogue with the Baby Boomer Generation?
XCHEL: The dialogue is meant for all generations. T, the only difference is that we’re using the millennial lexicon.
Xchel’s Recent SNL Audition: The Scoop
LH: By the way, you recently auditioned for TV’s Saturday Night Live. Can you give us a little scoop about your experience?
XCHEL: The SNL audition was a fun process that puts my comedic talents to the test. We were asked to prepare five minutes of characters for a group of NBC Executives. I was lucky enough to perform with my friends in the audience as that alleviated the stress of the situation. I brought to the table several characters. I had a lot of fun and I would do it again… but next time less sweaty.