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Setting sights on film, Kinley Gomez going places


Kinley Gomez is going places. Just not to Southern California in June. That had been the plan. The incoming senior at Canterbury School is among a handful of talented applicants who’ve been accepted into the University of Southern California’s vaunted advanced summer screenwriting program. But due to COVID-19 concerns, the four-credit course has been moved online. And for now, so has Kinley’s attention and focus.

While she won’t be able to meet people in person or network face-to-face, KG nonetheless expects to learn invaluable tools, techniques and tips in screenwriting once the six-week course starts in the last week in June. She aspires to write – and perform in – comedic movies in the tradition of those written by and starring the likes of Judd Apatow (Girls (2012), Knocked Up (2007), The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)), Adam Sandler (The Ridiculous 6 (2015), Grown Ups 2 (2013), Jack and Jill (2011), Grown Ups (2010), The Waterboy (1998), Happy Gilmore (1996), Billy Madison (1995)), Will Ferrell (Step Brothers (2008), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), A Night at the Roxbury (1998) and Steve Martin (The Pink Panther (2006), The Pink Panther 2 (2009), The Jerk Too (1984), Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), The Jerk (1979)).

“While I love and admire Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig, I really enjoy the male comedians more, and I’m absolutely obsessed with Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell and Steve Martin,” Kinley professes. “They inspire me. I watch old SNL sketches constantly and study their comedic timing. And interviews [they’ve given] to see how they respond to awkward questions. I watch a lot of Judd Apatow and Steve Martin because all the films they do are similar, so I study them because they provide a template.”

If you’ve seen KG perform at Lab Theater, you might not associate her with comedy, but her family, friends and classmates affectionately refer to her as “the funny one.” Even her teachers joke about Kinley flying them up to New York once she lands a gig on Saturday Night Live.

“When I was little, I was goofy but not necessarily funny. I’ve discovered my comedic side over the past two years,” Kinley self-assesses. “I always look for the funny side when things aren’t so great. I like to take normal situations and point out the irony or the humor in them. No matter how strange or dire a situation may be, there is always something people can laugh about.”

Improv enables Kinely to hone her observational skills so that she can size up people, places and circumstances in the twinkle of one of her arresting turquoise eyes.

“I’m really into improv and I take improv classes through Second City in Chicago, which is the best comedy school in the country – where all the SNL people get their start. I take classes online, and whenever I’m in Chicago I go to their show. That’s one of the things I’m inspired by and put a lot of time into.”

KG’s comedies are about real life people. Relatability is the polestar that guides her storytelling.

“Everybody has some crazy in their life. I want to highlight that in a positive way to make people to laugh.”

She’ll get her opportunity in the USC summer playwriting program, where she’s required to write a feature-length screenplay over the span of the six-week course. She’s not waiting, though, for the class to begin. She’s already at work piecing together the 120-140 page screenplay she’ll have to produce.

“It’s going to be a teen coming-of-age comedy based loosely on some of the people in my high school,” she teases, though there’s no hint that her characters or storyboard will carry the bite of, say, “Circle the Drain,” “7 Things” or “Dear John.”

Meanwhile, KG is also developing her playwriting abilities.

Since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, she’s submitted work to several online writing contests, including the Almost Theatre Festival and Quarantine Bake-Off .

A digital theatrical showcase of new short plays by emerging writers, the Almost Theatre Festival strives to narrow the gap between our socially distanced lives and the experience of live theatre while providing an outlet for innovative and unique work to meet new audiences. Almost Theatre brings together actors, playwrights and directors alike to continue adapting and creating despite the current atmosphere of change.

Quarantine is “a real time artistic response to social isolation along with a community of people eager to write and keep art alive in a time of intense darkness. The twist here is that writers have only 48 hours to produce an original 10-15 minute one-act play and they must incorporate certain ingredients or “prompts” into their script, such as (most recently) a second chance, wild turkey, soil, a reuniting, a sprig of mint and a monologue spoken while eating a fried egg. The top five submissions are read virtually on YouTubeLive. Quarantine received more than 5,000 participants from around the world for its last Bake Off, including one by KG.

The Entertwine writing challenge recently accepted one of Kinley’s submissions and “there is a theater in New Hampshire that is looking for content for their Fall season, so I submitted a few short plays to them too,” Kinley notes.

Of course, KG is the first to acknowledge that writing for the stage is different than writing for film.

“For film, you have to consider camera angles and the set is a lot more intricate. For stage, you have to consider the actors’ abilities and the stage setting. But you also have the ability to include the audience in the structure of the play, which I find interesting.”

In fact, her musical, The Torah Yah, begins with actors sitting around a table that’s located in the proscenium in the middle of the audience.

Wait. What? She writes musicals?

“I’ve written a few other short musicals and short plays that my theater class at school has performed,” Kinley says matter-of-factly.

But they’re no amateur affair.

For example, she wrote The Torah Yah for the Florida State Thespian Festival. The world’s largest high school theater competition, the Florida State Thespian Festival gives more than 7,000 high school thespians and their drama troupes an opportunity to show their stuff each year alongside other schools from around the state. Over the course of three days, schools compete for main stage awards in a series of public productions of various plays. The festival provides a great platform to showcase the work of budding thespians and encourage friendly competition in a fun, learning environment. The experiences that participants gain shape the way they enter the world of theater following their departure from the education system. Recognizing that live theater is imperfect, the festival helps young artists develop their theatrical skills early so that they can go on to create their own incredible theater experiences in the future.

KG’s musical won a very high superior in the competition and was one of five pieces chosen to go to the state competition which, unfortunately, was cancelled because of COVID-19.

“I don’t actually write the music,” Kinley qualifies. “I write the lyrics and it’s rap style in the tradition of Hamilton.”

As if that were nothing special, huh?

While screenwriting is her passion, film acting comes in a close second.

“The opportunities to get into film in Fort Myers are limited, so I take anything I can get. Right now I’m working on a short film called BloodandFlame. It’s about vampires. We only started in March and soon after was interrupted by COVID-19. But I had promo shoots this past weekend. I’m cast as little Jewel, a delightful, innocent-seeming maniac. She’s totally crazy and I’m really excited about this project because it’s the first film I’ve been able to be a part of. It’s a good opportunity to learn.”

And she’s also been cast in And They Did.

“It’s a student film and the writer/producer [Gaby Czarnik] had people throughout the country and in Europe audition.”

Kinley snagged the part of Hazel.

“It’s going to be a self-made montage about someone with associative identity disorder.”

Dissociative disorders usually develop in response to trauma. They’re coping mechanism that function to keep difficult memories at bay. Symptoms range from amnesia and distorted or unreal perceptions of the people and objects to alternate identities and even dissociative identity disorder (known as multiple personalities in a less enlightened age). The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil are perhaps the two most memorable films dealing with the subject, but earlier this season Lab Theater produced a show (How to Transcend a Happy Marriage) in which the main character suffers dissassociative identity breakdown after participating in an orgy with her husband and another couple.

“There is a cast of 15-20 people and [the writer/producer] sent each of us monologues and wants us to record them and send them back to her.”

If you’re beginning to see a pattern here, Kinley does too. Not only are Hazel and Jewel dark, dangerous, dramatic characters, but so was Abigail in The Crucible.

Although Kinley steadfastly maintains that she can find humor in any one and any situation, there was nothing at all comic about the malevolent, manipulative young woman who instigated the Salem Witch Trials.

“Abigail is just awful and that was a really hard part to learn and execute the way Annette [Trossbach] wanted,” Kinley notes. “But it helped me grow as an actor. It was my first really big role and doing The Crucible helped me feel confident about acting and let me know that it isn’t just a hobby. It is more of who I am.”

And as it turns out, it was Annette Trossbach who converted KG from shy, retiring introvert into the emerging stage and film actor, screenwriter and playwright she’s becoming with every passing day.

“Annette was my drama teacher when I was in kindergarten.”

And in her first play, Snow White, Kinley played (wait for it) the Evil Queen.

“I was really loud and I played the part really well. And everybody was super surprised by that.”

She may write comedy, but she performs sheer evil.

Since kindergarten, KG has kept in touch with Trossbach and performed a few times at Lab Theater.

“Last year in the Spring, I started doing more there. I did The Vagina Monologues [hers was the haunting monologue “Ask a Six Year Old”], a couple of staged readings [and was in the cast of Kayleigh O’Connell’s Bagelesque in Lab’s 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge]. Then [Annette] told me I should audition for the role of Abigail.”

Interestingly, she did a comedy monologue.

“But I got the part any way,” she laughs.

Notwithstanding all the disruptions and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, KG is looking forward to an active and accomplished senior year at Canterbury.

“As a senior, I’ll definitely be doing the thespian competition again. And then I will also be part of the Fall play. We’re hoping to do some cabaret projects every other month too. That will give me an opportunity to perform more, and then we’re going to do some one-act plays.”

She will also be hosting some improv comedy nights for Canterbury, not to mention doing Mock Trial again.

“I’ve been doing that two years now.”

In February, before COVID-19 turned our worlds upside down, the Canterbury Mock Trial Team took 2nd place in Lee County Mock Trial Competition.

“I always play the part of one of the witnesses. It’s like acting,” Kinley remarks. “You’re given a character who’s a witness. I give my character nicknames and create a backstory and, actually, my back up plan if the whole film acting and screenwriting thing doesn’t pan out perfectly, I’ll go to law school. Law is kind of like acting. It’s very … theatrical.”

But it’s unlikely she’ll ever need to implement her back-up plan. After high school, she fully intends to study film and screenwriting in college. Who knows? Southern Cal may even make the short list of the schools to which she applies. And from there, she’ll take her place among the stars – whether that’s in New York on Saturday Night Live, writing comedic movies a’ la Judd Apatow and Adam Sandler or setting her own trajectory.

Kinley Gomez is definitely going places.

Including virtually to Southern California in June.

May 27, 2020.

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