San Francisco, US. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
San Francisco, US. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As Andrea Almario was getting ready to stage her new San Francisco play on the lives of undocumented Filipino care workers, six homes were being raided over alleged human rights abuses in the same city.

Her sister Aureen, who co-directs Chasing Papeles, said police reports that hundreds of Filipino immigrants had been exploited for nearly a decade at the Bay Area homes had partly inspired the production.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know,” she said. “There are so many layers and so many different experiences immigrants have. It’s not just one story that’s being told, and some perspectives are still missing.”

Andrea Almario wrote about the plight of undocumented workers for her thesis while studying for a masters in Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, and now has adapted it to the theater.

Set in an aged care home, it is being staged at Bindlestiff Studio, a San Francisco venue that caters for the city’s large Filipino population.  Aureen, Andrea and their mother Rose are involved with the studio.

Many of the original stories behind the play were related to Andrea by Filipina caregivers after she arrived from the Philippines in 1991. She got into the theater world after taking a class at Chabot College.

“It was a way to have a voice in the US when we felt very silent,” she told 48hills, recalling how it had also become an outlet for her family. “My theater is influenced and shaped by my undocumented life.”

First performed at Berkeley in 2016 with Aureen in a lead role, the play has undergone some changes for its revival at Bindlestiff Studio.

“The most exciting thing is we wrote new music for the last song, and I think that created the missing link. Now that final song is a hopeful ending that added a nice touch to this very sad story,” Andrea said. 

“Sometimes there are things you can’t say in words and through movement and music, it hits the spot.”

The play will be staged at Bindlestiff Studio until November 1.