Award-winning actress Qurrat Ann Kadwani tackled the struggle of balance between identity and culture with her emotional and humorous play “They Call Me Q” in the Page Theater on April 25.
Standing on the stage, Kadwani took on the persona of “Q,” her younger self on the search for acceptance, initially sought from others, but finally found in herself. “They Call Me Q” introduces some of the major people who influenced Q along her journey.
She led the audience through her struggles with racism and the high expectations of her parents. Some friends she made throughout high school and college were among the most influential and eye-opening to her situation in life, as were individuals she would meet when traveling back to India.
Kadwani said that the main meaning of her play in her mind is “accepting yourself so that you can accept others.” In conjunction with that, she said, “You have one life to lead, and that’s yours.”
Even though she wrote this play in two years, she put it away for two more after getting negative feedback from someone she paid to review it. Eventually, she was encouraged enough by others to revisit it. She said that the lesson she learned is to “be careful who you include in your life” because “not everyone knows how to give constructive criticism.”
There was a diversity workshop before the performance, and that workshop gave students some new experiences to learn from. Kadwani said that she thinks that such a workshop helps “students to connect the dots of society’s different dynamics.”
Saint Mary’s Director of Student Activities Mike Ostman said that the Office of Student Activities felt that “They Call Me Q” fits within the Lasallian Core Principles of Saint Mary’s, “especially the principles that pertain to respect for all persons, quality education, and inclusive community,” he said.
“They Call Me Q” was organized by Saint Mary’s Office of Student Activities, Academic Affairs, International Center, and President William Mann. The organizers hoped to provide students with “a fun and educational experience on an upbringing and life that is most likely very different from their own.”
“They Call Me Q” is Kadwani’s first solo play, and it won the Best Actress Award in its debut at Variations Theatre Group’s 2012 Harvest Theatre Festival. She is the first South Asian female to have an Off-Broadway solo play produced. She has performed it over 200 times in 35 states in the U.S.
Ostman said that the organizers believed the show “covered topics of racism, bullying, family, faith, and identity, which [they] believed are important messages for all students to hear.”