8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 3 p.m. Sun.; through March 23
Southern Rep, The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., third floor, 522-6545; www.southernrep.com
Tickets $20 preview (Friday), $50 opening night (Saturday), $29 Wed., Thu. and Sun., $35 Fri.-Sat.
Among the challenges of trying to enforce strict anti-immigration laws is the fact that undocumented immigrants are everywhere. Even on Sesame Street.
"I was hiding in plain sight," says Carlo Alban, who appeared as "Carlo" on the children's program for four years. "I was scared of getting caught, afraid of getting fired and humiliated."
As bizarre as it sounds, Alban became a successful child actor while his family concealed its undocumented status, having entered the country on a tourist visa and stayed. Alban eventually graduated to an acting career in stage and film. He's appeared on Law & Order, Oz, Strangers With Candy and in many other TV programs and films. Since 2004, he's been working on the one-man show Intringulis, which opens at Southern Rep this week.
The show recounts his life as an undocumented immigrant, from entering the United States at age 7 to becoming a citizen in his mid-20s (in 2006).
"I've always wanted to tell this story," he says. "I grew up in fear. There's always that impulse. I feel like I have the right to tell this story."
Alban's family is from Ecuador. They visited his mother's sister, a legal immigrant, in California in the late 1980s and never left. After four years, the family moved to New Jersey, where his father had been offered a job. Shortly afterward, he went to his first audition, somewhat by accident.
Alban and his brother were visiting cousins who were auditioning for roles in the musical Oliver!, and they went along to watch. Both brothers were encouraged to audition, and Carlo was cast as Oliver.
"I can remember it perfectly," he says. "I was hunched over getting ready to sing 'Food, Glorious Food.' My heart was pounding waiting for the curtain to come up. And the next thing I remember the curtain came down, it was all over, and we were all screaming and jumping around. I fell in love."
One of the show's producers encouraged him to start auditioning in New York City, and Alban was both interested and cautious. Any investigation of their fake Social Security numbers or green cards could expose them. But two years later, he joined the cast of Sesame Street as Carlo.
"There's something very special about that show," he says. "I joined on the 25th anniversary season. It's really a big family; it's a very grounded place. I was scared, but I felt lucky to be there."
He's spent much of the past five years developing Intringulis at LABrynth Theater Company in New York. Alban plays himself and other people he has encountered, and he sings some Latin protest songs. It's the only time he's played guitar on stage.
"The catalyst (for the show) came in 2004, when my mom heard me playing guitar," he says. His mother responded by playing a tape for him of Joan Baez singing a Mexican folk song. Alban started listing to folk and protest songs more carefully, and he heard similar messages about civil rights and human rights from both North and South America. Music helps ground the show, he says, partially because it had a strong presence at home.
"My mom was afraid we wouldn't speak Spanish," he says. "But there was always music around our house."