‘They Call me Q’: one woman’s journey to self-discovery

By Dominique Smack

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The multi-talented Qurrat Ann Kadwani brought her unique one-woman show to the DCCC stage on Oct. 30 in a charismatic performance that kept the audience intrigued, laughing, and craving more.

“They Call Me Q” is an off-Broadway stage play about how one woman seeks balance between her own cultural identity and acceptance in the American culture.

Kadwani, who wrote and produced the play, takes a comical and relatable approach to capturing her personal journey as a Hindu American woman growing up in Brooklyn, NY.

Through a multitude of characters, and sometimes prop changes, Kadwani swiftly transitions from her cultural stricken mother to her countless classmates in a unique way that allows us to get so engulfed in the performance that we tend to overlook the idea that there is only one woman adorning the stage.

The first south Asian female to have a solo play, Kadwani has won several awards, including Best Actress, Best Play, NYS Assemblyman and a plethora of others.

Her performances have occurred in more than 35 states, as well as colleges campuses worldwide.

Kadwani may look familiar to some, as she is not a stranger to television. She has starred in familiar shows, such as “Law and Order,” “The Blacklist,” and “Luke Cage.” Kadwani also teaches private lessons in Brooklyn for aspiring students in many areas of film and production.

The story of her name is the opening dialogue of “They Call me Q,” wherein Q explains as a child the struggles of having a Hindu name in America, while concealing her full name till the very end.

The play begins with Kadwani jumping right into dialogue, her boisterous tone revealing her story from birth and how their family migrated to America, ultimately residing in Bronx, NY, where she learns to call the “ghetto” home.

With her family being Islamic and originating from India, Kadwani incorporates the Islamic and Hindu language into the performance, attaching a detailed glossary for those who weren’t familiar with the terms.

Through the hour-long show, Kadwani touches on issues and experiences that have shaped her, providing new insight for anyone that may be experiencing the cultural pressure to stay true to oneself while adapting to the ways of the world.

Kadwani takes us on an extensively detailed dialogue from her grade school days where she suffered with not being accepted by her peers, to her strongly wanting to be included in the Latin American culture by adorning herself in gaudy gold jewelry, to the high school days where she’s taunted and ridiculed for being the “poor” Indian girl with the “red dot” on her head. All the while, she struggled to fight the desire for social acceptance.

Kadwani’s performance highlights some of the issues a college student could face today, including her first run-in with police while using a fake ID bar hopping, and one of her best friends committing suicide shortly after what seemed to be the time of their lives.

Woven throughout the performance are important life lessons. Most notably is the scene when Q visits her cousin in India in her adult life. Her cousin says to her, “You can start over if you want. People will notice and embrace.”

In this scene, Kadwani is assuring her audience that everyone can start over and transform.

This lesson was particularly valuable to me, being a college student and identifying with the ability to shift into a different life at any moment.

In short, Kadwani finds a way to make us feel her story, live it through her in a sense.

We laugh as she takes us on her highs, and we fall silent with empathy as she shares her lows.

Toward the end of her performance, Kadwani lures the audience back to her name, pronouncing her full name in a confident, proud tone as lights dim, and the audience celebrates this amazing performance.

Contact Dominique Smack at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu