Alumna explores cultural identities with one woman play

“Five great things happened the year I was born,” Qurrat Ann Kadwani ‘02 said as she took the stage on Nov. 1 in Sturges Auditorium to perform her autobiographical, one-woman play “They Call Me Q.” With undeniable talent and seamless transitions and transformations, Kadwani brings 13 unique characters to center stage. Her “post-immigrant story” tells of her coming of age as an Indian immigrant as she grows up in the Bronx and eventually attends Geneseo.

Q first identifies with the dominant Latin population in the Bronx, donning big, gold earrings, gold rings and a fake accent as she tries to establish her identity.

“This is an identity piece … I address it from a cultural perspective,” Kadwani said.

The audience watches Q grow from a disobedient Latin-influenced preteen, to an independent college student, to the Indian woman who returns home in search of answers regarding her culture.

Although the characters are based on people in Kadwani’s life, they are just representations.

“The mother character is a representation of my mother; the audience sees things she said and didn’t say, things she did and didn’t do,” Kadwani said.

Kadwani takes advantage of the play’s overarching theme of identity by attacking it at different angles.

“Each character is developed with different things in mind: how they see themselves, how others see them, what actions they take, what actions others take toward them and what they say about themselves,” Kadwani said.

Each section of the play is formed based on a specific mood. As the first section of “They Call Me Q” concludes, Kadwani noticeably explores identity and tradition-oriented themes, and then one of her close friends commits suicide. The twist provides a shocking dark turn that gives Kadwani time to catch her breath.

After having lost her friend, Q travels to Geneseo – six hours from home, her mother and the city – a relatable idea for audience members. In this sequence, she calls home while trying to make her mother’s most basic recipe. Kadwani personifies family traditions in the form of cultural food.

The final section of the play begins after Kadwani graduates from college. She takes a pink Indian bandhani scarf and wears it in differing fashions: around her waist, on her head and over her shoulders to portray “strong Indian women” who have different understandings and perceptions of independence and happiness.

The last character, a friend who stayed in India, speaks a monologue that leaves the audience in a philosophical state, questioning personal independence.

“People identify themselves by comparing themselves to others; if you think she is repressed, but she thinks she is independent because she decides to stay in India, what are you? Are you independent?” Kadwani said of the character.

Q closes the play by breaking the subtle tension she created in the beginning of the show when she introduced her unique, life-changing name without giving us its beautiful meaning: the coolness of the eye.