Ben Asaykwee was convinced his rescue cat was trying to murder him. As he slept during their first week together, the cat, Mistah Que (pronounced Q), slipped his paws over Asaykwee’s mouth. “I thought he was trying to suffocate me,” he says.
Eight years later, the pair had made two major moves together. And when Asaykwee and a group of friends formed a theatre collaborative in 2007, they paid homage to the cat with the name Q Artistry.
The non-profit group’s musical revue inspired by Mistah Que, To Have and to Hold, opened this past week at the Irvington Lodge in Indianapolis. With a rescue and adoption spin, the show highlights various aspects of pet ownership—including a scene about Mistah Que suffocating Asaykwee. All proceeds go to the Indianapolis Animal Welfare Alliance, a coalition of animal shelters and outreach groups.
Asaykwee says the decision to donate was simple. “Why not raise money for an organization that’s trying to educate? We’re doing the same things (they) are doing, just in a different format.”
A year ago, in the wake of Mistah Que’s death, Asaykwee began writing the show. “He was a family member. I felt so much responsibility,” Asaykwee says.
He wrote as a way to cope, constructing a musical one-act out of his own experiences and stories from friends and family.
Asaykwee calls the experience “extremely cathartic—especially hearing people’s similar situations regarding loss and the frustrations of owning a pet.”
The resulting hour-long one-act features reptiles, birds, dogs, and cats—“from when we adopt them all the way to when they pass on. I thought if this could help me, it could help other people,” Asaykwee says.
To Have and to Hold runs June 4, 5, 11, and 12 at 8 p.m., as well as June 6 and 13 at 2:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit qartistry.org. –Katie Scarlett Brandt