International Actresses Write Play About Grueling US Immigration Process, and Host a Fundraiser to Support It
Former international student actresses held a fundraiser last night at a local bar and performance venue in order to support bringing “Extraordinary Aliens,” a play they wrote and performed about the struggles that international student actors face in applying for visas after graduation, to the Hollywood Fringe Festival in Los Angeles.
“Our play got accepted into the Fringe Festival,” said Bianca Waechter, one of the stars and co-writers of the show, who graduated from NYU Tisch Drama in January. The Fringe Festival is “an annual, open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community,” according to the website. “We need to raise money for that because we need to pay for the venue and the flights, so we’re raising money to go to LA, and then hopefully other festivals as well.”
“Extraordinary Aliens” follows the story of a fictional Italian actress and NYU Tisch graduate Fabiana(played by Flavia Sgoifo) as she goes through the grueling process of choosing an immigration lawyer to help her apply for the O-1 visa, which, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, is a “nonimmigrant visa for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.” The play consists mostly of scenes in which Fabiana attends consultations with various immigration lawyers (played by Bianca Waechter and Arianna Wellmoney), all of which are presented as if they are a series of brutally failed dates. Fabiana is supported by two “visa helpers” dressed humorously as literal aliens, also played by Bianca and Arianna. The visa helpers support Fabiana with witty catch-phrases such as “everything happens for a visan,” and a recurring parody song of the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe,” replacing lines such as “if you wanna be my lover” with “if you wanna be my lawyer.”
“The reason we wrote the play was because I’m going through the visa struggle right now,” said Bianca. “Flavia and Arianna, my co-writers and actors, they already have their visas, so they already went through the whole struggle — the play is based on what actually happened to them.”
Even though the experiences with the lawyers Fabiana faces in the play seem almost too crazy to believe, some of the scenes are based upon actual experiences that both Flavia and Arianna faced when trying to find lawyers to help them apply for their O-1 visas, according to Bianca. One of the the real-life lawyer stories presented in the play consisted of a lawyer being arrested for fraud while still in the process of handling the actor’s visa application. Another lawyer shown in the play was based off of a real, extremely high-strung lawyer, who had a breakdown upon realizing that the actor had only eight rather than nine letters of recommendation.
Bianca said that they received an outpour of positive feedback from other international artists and students when the play was first performed at NYU Casa Italiana on March 15th. Aside from providing people with information about the process, Bianca said that one of the goals of the play is to provide a sense of comic relief to people who are currently going through the difficult process.
“It’s a comedy — we want to be able to laugh about this whole process, because it is a lot to go through,” said Bianca.
The audience seemed to agree with that message, as was evident by eruptions of laughter at the many jokes and comedic scenarios throughout the play.
The Bitter End, the local bar and venue that the event was held at, is a small but classic Greenwich Village spot, where many household-name stars such as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Billy Crystal all performed before they became famous, according to a previous owner’s obituary. It’s brick walls, snug but cozy seating, and vibrant audience all give make it a true Greenwich Village atmosphere, making it perfect for a play about an actress whose dream it is to remain in New York City.
“They’re so great about giving us the space,” said Bianca. “You get the space, and you get to keep all the ticket money, so it’s a really great space for a fundraiser — and it’s a beautiful venue.”
After the play was over, the Pace University Music Group took the stage, featuring a series of talented young singers, musicians, and a rapper.
Bianca says that if she gets her O-1 visa, she wants to devote her time to bringing “Extraordinary Aliens” to theaters around New York City, and eventually turn it into a web series.