Full Circle: A Story of Mentorship and Collaboration

Last Friday, I was lucky to be invited to a special performance at CCM of an independent study project by graduating senior Zack Triska, directed by Vincent DeGeorge.  Triska has always struck me as the studious type; his long, rebellious hair belies a certain spirit of thoughtfulness. I imagine he’s the kind of student who motivates those who teach him to be on point.  I bet he asks deep questions. But I also know he’s always respectful, polite, and definitely talented.

DeGeorge is a good match for him.  Despite his warm laugh and engaging personality, Vince is a serious director.  He’s kind but intense about his craft and is not satisfied with anything less than excellent. He is a graduate of CCM, himself, after all.  (Vince recently was presented with the “CCM Musical Theatre Young Alumni Award” this year in a surprise presentation at the senior showcase.)

According to DeGeorge’s pre-performance introduction, he and Triska had been working on this piece for the entire semester.  A one-man play crafted from excerpts from The Kryptonite Kid by Joseph Torchia.  Vince himself adapted the book for his senior project in 1992 and when Zack was looking for something to work on, Vince (thanks to his wife, Amy, also an CCM MT grad) suggested this piece, which is called “Dear Superman.”

Briefly, it’s a series of letters from a pre-pubescent boy to Superman, his hero, asking questions and talking about his life growing up in an abusive home, a Catholic school, with a bully for an older brother. It’s quite funny and moving.  All of those with traditional Catholic school upbringing in the room were definitely reliving memories of their childhood.  Others could relate to the universal themes of faith, hope, and questioning our destinies.

Triska, looking great with his hair pulled back, morphed into that little boy with ease.  His casual, breezy delivery of the words was relatable and accessible. He was vulnerable and open.  The hour flew by, which is sometimes tough in one-person performances.  

DeGeorge, who’s role as director includes things like stage positioning and pace, did a nice job of keeping things moving both in time and space.  But also, his job is to make sure that above all else the story comes through. It’s excellent source material but it was written for the page, not necessarily the stage.  However, this duo found the beats of the narrative and delivered a linear plot through the series of funny and emotional letters to Superman.  It really was a delightful afternoon of theatrical performance.

Triska said, “Getting the chance to work on something that [Vince] created made this experience extra special. This piece means so much to [him] and the fact that he trusted me with his material meant the world.” Triska has appeared in several of Vince’s musicals over the last four years including “Children of Eden,” “Runaways,” and “Seussical.”

“It really does feel like it’s come full circle,” DeGeorge told me. He and Zack met every week throughout the semester to work on the piece.  “He is so flexible, but he also came prepared.”  Specifically, Vince cited a conversation they had about a particular “super-pose” in which Vince suggested Zack study a 1950’s comic book to get another idea.  Triska came back with the information and implemented the change immediately.  “He definitely did his homework.”

“Vince has become an incredible mentor and friend, and working with him on Dear Superman is something I will cherish forever,” Triska said.