Born in Bombay and raised in the Bronx, Qurrat Ann Kadwani has made history in becoming the first South Asian Female to have an Off-Broadway show. The award-winning ‘They Call Me Q!‘ is a 60 minute one-woman show in which Kadwani plays 13 characters giving the audience a window into her life and challenges she faced growing up. She has performed the show over 50 times across the country as well as in Canada.
Qurrat took some time from her busy schedule, as she gets ready for the show’s first night on May 19th, to chat with us.
First of all, congratulations on being the first South Asian Female to have an off-Broadway show! How does that make you feel to be such a trailblazer?
Thank you so much! I am immensely proud that They Call Me Q has made it to Off Broadway! I am so thrilled to be able to tell my story and the stories of everyone who struggles with their identity within a cultural and social context. I am so excited to be able to bring this universal play to larger audiences.
Where did you first perform the show?
They Call Me Q debuted in Chicago in 2012. It was more of a workshop production for us- we tested the script, saw what we needed to do to refine the 13 characters that I play, and honed in on the rhythm of the piece. We had such a great response even way back then!
Did you ever think you’d get as much positive feedback as you’ve gotten?
The feedback has been so amazing! I am always happily surprised when audiences all over the country share their personal stories with me and tell me which part they related to, which character they loved the most. It proves to me that even though I’m South Asian, They Call Me Q has broad universal appeal from Hawaii to Canada to the deep South.
Tell us more about ‘They Call Me Q’, what can the audience (or “Quties”) expect to see?
I’ve performed They Call Me Q over 50 times so audiences can expect a very fun and refined show! It’s educational and entertaining, uplifting and inspirational. At the end of the day, it’s about self-acceptance. The mother character will make you think of your own mom; the Bronx characters will make you think of your neighborhood growing up.
How and why did you decide to write such a personal account about your life, let alone perform it?
I wanted to tell my story- a post immigrant story. I was born in India but I grew up in the Bronx and I always had to find the balance between my traditional Indian culture and what it means to be American. For awhile, because of various growing pains that I address in They Call Me Q, I was embarrassed of my culture. When I set out to write the play, I thought, this is probably something alot of people go through. How can we accept ourselves when we get so many messages from our environment, parents, friends, etc? How can we begin to define ourselves?
Tell us about growing up in the Bronx? How long did you live here, where did you live, and which schools did you attend? Where are you currently living?
I grew up near Bronx Park East, off the 2 train. I went to P.S. 105 across the street from Kindergarten to 6th grade. Junior High School was 127 and P.S. 83 and then The Bronx High School of Science. My parents still live in the same apartment and I go to visit them every week! I currently live in midtown Manhattan.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an actress?
When I was at Bronx Science, I was on the Speech Team and I realized that I love performing. When I went to SUNY Geneseo for college, I auditioned immediately for the first play I could – got the lead- and was on my way! Even though I wasn’t a Theatre major yet, I was taking so many Theatre classes – from theatre history to political theatre. I realized that I was most interested in performing in plays that promoted social change – that provoked audiences into assessing themselves and how they fit into this world.
I remember a time when there wasn’t much of a South Asian population in our borough and over the past decades it’s grown into such a burgeoning community. How was it for you growing up in The Bronx? Did you struggle with your own identity and who you felt you were?
There were a few South Asians in my elementary school but I still felt displaced. I wanted to be someone who had another culture – a very strong theme that I address in They Call Me Q. I was made fun of because I am Indian, because I have a “strange name,” eat “smelly food,” and “show off” with sparkly clothes. Even though my parents have such strong cultural ties, I just wanted to be “American,” without realizing that my neighborhood was so diverse with many different cultures as well.
Are you currently working on any other projects?
Philanthropy is close to my heart. My brother Obaid Kadwani and I co-manage our annual philanthropy project, A Slice of Hope, www.asliceofhope.org, through which we provide pizza parties at homeless shelters all over the country during one week in June. This event is coming up and it is funded by individuals. It’s amazing to see how much support we get and how easy it is to spread hope!
I’ll also continue to tour They Call Me Q and work on film and TV projects.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readers?
Even if you’ve never been to the theatre, even if you don’t like theatre, They Call Me Q will change everything for you! I can guarantee that you will love it – you will be moved, and you’ll want to see it again! I play 13 characters in 60 minutes and you’ll wonder where the time went!
Oh and of course, what’s your favorite place in the Bronx?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve gone to Johnny’s in City Island with my family. I go there for a shrimp basket every month! Except when it’s closed Dec – Mar. But March 1, I’m there!
Follow Qurrat on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube: theycallmeQshow
Catch ‘They Call Me Q’ at St Luke’s Theatre from May 19th through July 2nd. Performances are on Mondays at 7PM and Wednesdays at 8PM. Tickets are available via Telecharge. If you’re interested in group discount tickets, they are available with a minimum purchase of 10 tickets by calling the box office at (212) 246-8140 or (212) 947-3499 or visiting St Luke’s during their box office hours:
St. Luke’s Box Office Hours
Monday 2 pm – 7:30 pm
Tuesday 2:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Wednesday 2 pm – 8 pm
Thursday 2:30 pm – 7 pm
Friday 2 pm – 8 pm
Saturday 10 am – 8 pm
Sunday 12 pm – 7 pm