As the first South Asian female to have a solo play, now, Qurrat Kadwani, has two. Performing INTRUSION at the San Diego International Fringe Festival, Qurrat Ann Kadwani is better known as Q with her first solo show self-titled as “They Call Me Q”.
Written and performed by Kadwani, INTRUSION is directed by New York-based director Constance Hester. Kadwani’s performance is highly informative, emotional and compelling. You’re not just there to watch, you’re there to learn.
INTRUSION is set 20 years into a fictional utopian future when rape is eradicated but one woman comes forward with allegations of rape. The one-woman show features a plethora of characters (all played by Kadwani) who try to cope and deal with the intrusion of this event in their seemingly perfect society and seemingly perfect lives.
INTRUSION was seen at the 2018 San Diego Fringe Festival and is opening Off-Broadway on August 8th. This is asienne‘s post-show interview with Kadwani after her June 29th show.
A: So this is your second solo play. Why solo plays instead of one with a full cast?
QK: Yeah, I really love the solo play art form which can be: one person playing all aspects, one person playing one character, one person playing several characters, or one person doing act outs and other characters come in. I just really love the platform and I always have since I was probably about 16 or 17 years old. I always wanted to be able to do solo plays and I’m so glad I’m able to do that now.
A: What made you do INTRUSION specifically? Where did that specific interest come from?
QK: I was really obsessed with the 2012 New Delhi gang rape. The politician character references it and I started researching why this happens. I was originally going to write a play about gang rape in India but after I started researching, I thought ‘this is a huge global problem!’
One, I didn’t realize how massive it was. In every situation, it doesn’t matter if the country is rich or poor, it doesn’t matter if the person is rich or poor. It doesn’t matter. It happens in war-stricken countries, it happens in very wealthy countries, it happens all the time.
Because it’s not about all these external factors, it’s really about, in my opinion, gender equality or lack of it.
So I decided to set it in America and try to focus on the issue because it is so massive and try to focus on why the problem is not ending here.
A: How much of the characters were real?
QK: Oh! None of them. I just wanted to have certain stock characters that are why the characters are like politicians because I just wanted to hear their perspective on the issue. Personally, I was curious about the psychology behind it: why it happens. That’s why I had to include the psychologist character.
Then, also through my research, I learned why the justice system fails rape victims. Because less than five percent of prosecutors take on a rape case because it’s so hard to win them. And so we see just how this trickles down from the top all the way down to the bottom. We see that this is a problem on the political level even with politicians that want to do the right thing.
And I try to structure my characters in a way that they all want to do the right thing but they’re held back professionally.
So this event, [the rape] is an intrusion in their lives.
That’s what fascinates me the most about characters. When there are good people who do bad things.
Flawed. We’re all flawed. So why is it that we make the decisions that we do?
A: How long did it take you to write it and research it?
QK: I started writing it three years ago and I put it aside. Then, last summer I decided that I’m going to start performing it but I realized I had to rewrite it. So I rewrote 90% of it. Just in this last year, I really rewrote it because I wanted all the characters to have specific voices and very specific perspectives because that’s how solo plays work if we’re going to have characters. The audience really needs to see how each person thinks and how they really feel in their heart about the event.
My friends were asking me, why are you writing a rape play?
[Then back] in October when the Weinstein story broke–everybody [said] ‘Woah perfect timing.’ I was [thinking] I’ve been writing this for years! It’s always been an issue but [in INTRUSION] this one particular workplace rape or workplace sexual assault has come to light because it’s easy to say ‘this is right or wrong we have rules against sexual harassment in the workplace.’
A: Going forward are you willing to take it to screen or is it just on-stage for now?
QK: Right now, I tour at colleges. I performed at five colleges in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I have ten coming up in the Fall for orientations or for Title IX Programming.
I hope to be Off-Broadway soon and yeah I have been thinking about making this into a film because I think that’d be fascinating. I’m just trying to think about whether if it would be better with different people or if I was just playing all of them which would be a cool cinematic kind of thing.
Things have definitely improved from 20, 15, 10 years ago. For the past five years, I’ve gotten so many auditions. Auditions for roles that are not Indian. So, that’s a huge step in the right direction because that means people are realizing I don’t only play one role. And it’s just only going to get better.
As we improve diversity-related programming–as artists have this responsibility to especially changing the way younger people are thinking, so when they gain power in terms of voting and what they’re watching in entertainment–
People don’t realize that we have so much power. We decide what shows are on the air. We decide which movies get made because if we see certain shows, the ratings go up and more shows will get created like that. And vice versa. If we don’t go to see movies that have whitewashing, for example, then that will stop.
We do have power when it comes to ratings and money and all of that. I think that’s it’s just going to get better. I think there’s still room for improvement. Honestly, for South Asian representation we probably have 10 series regulars on TV and maybe less, I don’t even know. It’s a handful.
But I have real hope.
A: Finally, last question. What’s your dream role?
QK: It’s funny that you say that because my dream role is to be a lawyer. A series-regular lawyer on TV like in (Showtime’s) Billions or something like that. I think I would do well as a lawyer (laughs).
This interview was condensed for time and lightly edited for clarity.