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The Scarlet & Black

Kadwani’s “They Call Me Q” on her coming of age

Kawandi brought the audience on a trip through her coming of age, transforming into 13 different people from her life on stage. Photo by Mahira Faran

By Mayo Sueta

A cap, a trophy, some bangles, an apron and a black jacket are among the few things that lie on the table and chairs onstage. The setup is modest, giving away very little of the energetic and thoughtful performance that is to take place.

On Monday, members of the Grinnell community gathered in the Harris Center to see Qurrat Ann Kadwani perform her solo play, “They Call Me Q.” Hailed as the first solo play starring a South Asian woman, “They Call Me Q” is a coming-of-age play told from the point of view of an Indian girl growing up in the Bronx. It explores the struggles of balancing multiple cultural identities through a perfect mixture of humor and heartbreak. It asks us to embrace our identities and learn to love ourselves.

Kadwani has a strong presence and is a confident performer. Her energy fills not only the stage, but the whole room. During the one-hour play, she flawlessly transitions among 13 characters by adopting a unique mannerism or accent, or by altering her costume. These characters were all inspired by people in Kadwani’s own life, including her Indian parents, her teachers, her bullies and her friends.

The character of Kadwani’s mother leaves an especially strong impression. She appears in various scenes, sometimes as a humorously traditional parent and other times as a woman with her own story. With the help of props, sounds and lighting, Kadwani effortlessly transforms the stage from a New York club to an American college campus to her hometown in India, and keeps the audience engaged throughout the play.

Kadwani’s genuine and honest nature was also evident during the Q&A session after the show. She touched on her writing process, discussing how she had not asked permission when writing the small anecdote of her mother’s experience with cooking. When asked about the pursuit of a career in theatre, Kadwani admitted to the difficulties, but also encouraged the audience to pursue any career with hard work and to strive for excellence. 

All in all, “They Call Me Q” manages to be entertaining, relatable and thought-provoking. It is a play to look out for as Kadwani continues on her tour around the country.

Kawandi brought the audience on a trip through her coming of age, transforming into 13 different people from her life on stage.
Photo by Mahira Faran
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