Last year I was introduced to a monthly spoken word/art/music showcase called Flypoet at The Savoy Entertainment Center in Inglewood. It takes place on the first Wednesday of the month and starts at exactly 8:03 p.m. It’s a night of poets, musicians and has a live artist who interprets the works that are being recited on stage.
My first time there, I saw a young poet/rapper/actor who goes by the name of In-Q. He bounded on stage and his energy and enthusiasm were like an octopus capturing dinner, he reached out and grabbed the room and didn’t let go.
I was completely taken with him, from his vitality to the floppy hair that framed his square-jawed face. Then he started sharing his poetry.
This is no “rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain” stuff, it is not the flowery ethereal, trying to bring the celestial down to earth writings of some teenage girl. This was gritty, emotional, experiential commentary on the state of the world. But not just the outer world of racism, poverty, and politics.
In-Q is a storyteller who takes his inner world, his emotional landscape, and lights it up for all to see and share. He brings his insights of humans, and humanity, to the edge of the stage and with a rhetorical flourish, he says, “here, look at what I am feeling.”
His presentation is highly polished and with intoxicating rhythms and rhymes, he sets the stage, but it was his openness that drew me in like a Venus flytrap. He grew up the product of a single mom and he uses that in a piece about connecting with his father, and how he had to forgive his dad in order to get to know him. It is such a moving piece, that the memory of it alone, can make me tear up today.
So when he had a one man show at the Greenway Court Theater last month, I had to attend. This was a one night only show, and the room was packed, literally standing room only, with different types of people. There were the nattily dressed African-American couples out on a date and the young white boys in their T-shirts and jeans. The stage had Latino-American girls sitting on the floor next to Asian-American boys. I stood in line with a 60-ish woman, next to a herd of 20-somethings. There were so many people lining the stairs to the back balcony that I couldn’t get down the stairs. For 90 minutes he held 300 people in the palm of his hand, doing audience participation exercises, and sharing his best work.
I left that show, and cried most of the drive back to my house. He touched on themes of love and loss, hope and happiness, racism and romanticism. This was a talent that I wanted to know more about.
His name is Adam Schmalholz, and he grew up in Santa Monica.
He accepted my invitation to be interviewed and we met this past week at the Loews Hotel for a coffee and a chat. Overlooking the Santa Monica Pier we talked about his life as the product of a single mother who taught behaviorally challenged kids at Culver High. We talked about what he has done to get over the anger he had growing up without a dad and how he turned that into such a powerfully moving piece.
This is no ordinary want-to-be actor, day dreaming about what it would be like to walk the red carpet. He’s real. He’s authentic. He wants to touch people. He attacks his work from the perspective of what is the most interesting side of the story. He’s a masterful storyteller.
We talked a lot about his piece, and the peace he made with his father. The easy shot would have been to expose the anger and rage of a teenage boy who didn’t know his dad. But Adam saw that the more interesting side of this was his path to forgiveness, and it was in sharing that pain, and the path, and emotionally opening up, that he makes his point so poignantly.
I asked him what does being a man mean to him, he said, getting “outside yourself, doing something for others.” He does for others by teaching poetry at Upward Bound.
His innate empathy swirls around him like a fine cologne, it’s not overpowering, it occasionally reminds you it is there and lets you remember it’s OK to share. “I’m a much better person for having grown up in the multi-cultural experience of Santa Monica,” he said.
And I’m a much enriched person for having spent some time with this young poet, the product of our diverse city, and his insightful views on life.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.