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Telling the Undocumented Stories

Alex Alpharaoh describes his citizenship journey in a powerful one-man show

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Telling the Undocumented Stories
Actor Alex Alpharaoh Photo: ray shaw

Most actors risk emotional exposure when they get on stage. When Alex Alpharaoh performs “WET: A DACAmented Journey,” he risks his life in the United States. Playing at ArtsEmerson through Nov. 25, the one-man show tells the story of Alpharaoh’s family and his search for U.S. Citizenship. As a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient in limbo on the path to legal status, Alpharaoh runs the risk of being expelled from the country every time he performs. In fact, the award-winning actor, director and spoken word artist says he’s lived much of his life in fear of losing the only home he’s ever known.

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He says spreading awareness about the realities of immigration is worth the risk. “The humanity behind the policy is the most important thing,” he says. “We forget that we’re talking about human lives.” His mother brought him to the U.S. from Guatemala illegally when he was 3 years old. She was only 15 herself, and risked both their lives in hopes of finding a better future. Though being under DACA keeps Alpharaoh from accruing unlawful presence time, it isn’t citizenship. It’s a way to buy time on the path to citizenship, which can feel like a never-ending process.

Because he came to the U.S. at such a young age, Los Angeles is the only home Alpharaoh has ever known. “The way that I walk, that I talk, that I dress, anywhere else in the world they would say, ‘That’s an American.’ There’s no duality. My identity is rooted in the United States,” he says.

What he hopes to accomplish in “WET” is to tell the immigrant story as a human story without explicitly bringing in policy. “A call to action for me is to see the humanity in people. Don’t assume that someone who looks like me isn’t a citizen. Get to know your neighbor. Be compassionate. Be kind,” he says. Immigration policy discussions pour from the media on a daily basis, but Alpharaoh believes associating policy with real people is a more powerful tool.

He encourages immigrant allies to do things undocumented immigrants can’t, like reach out to their representatives, and vote. But above all, he hopes audience members walk away understanding what a personal subject immigration is. He says, “I hope the individuals who see the show walk away with a different perspective and are willing to have a conversation. If people want to see change, they need to be that change.”

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