I Got Stoned and Watched 'Willy Wonka and the Weed Factory'
When community theater is fun, educational, and lit AF.
It’s the year 2025 and marijuana has just been legalized at the national level. A strange man wearing a purple blazer shows up in a town still stuck in an outdated Reefer Madness mentality, and invites five lucky people to tour his mysterious weed factory to teach them the truth about marijuana.
If the storyline sounds familiar, that’s because the weedy narrative is based on the Roald Dahl classic, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, except this version is well, very clearly inspired by, and produced specifically for, the keen-to-be-lit mindset.
Willy Wonka and the Weed Factory is a perfect mix that unites the zany world of Wonka and the drug that seemingly pairs so well with Wonka's world. The play, directed and written by L.A.-based Weslie Lechner, and Brittany Belland––two millennial creatives who met at the famous comedy theatre, iO West. True to the nature of the original play, the weedy satire on Dahl's Wonka was born of an otherwise routine smoking session.
“So [we] were all hanging out, smoking,” Lechner said to KINDLAND. “And I don’t remember why, but for some reason, I was like Willy Wonka and The Weed Factory would be a really funny idea," Lechner said.
"So then we got higher and we watched the movie and brainstormed.”
Sure, at this point, any connection or association between weed culture and Wonka is commonplace, but Lechner's play is less of a knockoff, or parody––and more of a commentary on the currently held stigmas that the general public holds, in regard to marijuana.
Willy Wonka and the Weed Factory 's creators set out to educate the audience, as well as entertain––and succeeds in both regards.
“We’re right on the brink of marijuana being legalized. But if it’s going to happen over the next few years, we need to help it get there,” said Belland, who also plays the role of “Charlotte” Charlie Bucket.
Determined to bring their vision to fruition––Lechner and Belland's debut as playwrights––the young actors quit their jobs to focus exclusively on the production. With the help of friend Patrick Boylan, who also stars as Wonka, and who scored the play, the weedy idea evolved quickly and organically.
Each character in Willy Wonka and the Weed Factory brings to the stage a familiar perspective, and feelings regarding cannabis.
There’s Octoberus, the lovable but typical stoner who simply loves weed. There is Ursula Pepper, a social-media-obsessed narcissist. And Verde Taro Card, who is concerned with the plant's environmental footprint.
While Lechner and Belland may have at first intended to raise awareness about normalization and legalization at the hyper-local level of suburban South Pasadena––where residents just voted to keep dispensaries out––the show's creators' ultimate goal is to take Willy Wonka and the Weed Factory on the Road to less pot-inclined locations than the usually lit AF Los Angeles. Belland, who grew up in Ohio, says misconceptions about marijuana are commonplace in her hometown, and hopes to eventually bring the show to the Buckeye State.
Sure, this is no Broadway show. But the pot-infused indie production never set out to be.
“Come with me,” Wonka sings to the audience, “and you’ll see a world of weed legalization.”
I'm already there.