Have you ever met someone who is so extraordinarily kind and charismatic that you cannot help but wish for them to succeed? Someone who is easy to root for because they are rooting for so many others? School of Theatre and Dance alumnus, Jason Lynch (BFA 2009), is one of those people, and his career in lighting design is as inspiring as his personality. Since graduating from Texas Tech, Lynch has made his way from electrics apprentice to award-winning Chicago-based lighting designer with projects across the nation at major regional theatres. His story is one of overnight success – ten years in the making.
Soon after graduating in 2009, Lynch took an internship in upper New York state at the Forestburgh Playhouse, the state's oldest summer stock theatre. He then moved over to an electrics apprenticeship position at Syracuse Stage, a professional theatre company attached to Syracuse University. "It was electrifying to be able to work professionally and to be a mentor to the students," Lynch recalls.
A year later, Lynch returned to his native Texas to join the Dallas Opera as the assistant lighting director. About this same time, he began spending his summers in New Mexico at the Santa Fe Opera working as a staff member in the lighting department. For the next seven years, Lynch committed himself to the operas, developing his skills and building important professional relationships.
Still, Lynch kept his ties with the theatre, seeking out opportunities in-line with his design aspirations when the operas were on hiatus. In 2017, Lynch picked up his first professional lighting design credits at major regional theatres, including an immersive production of Wolfe and LaChiusa's The Wild Party at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. He recalls how it felt to be a part of the experimental project: "It was done in a warehouse. The audience started off in a 'theatre' and then were suddenly transported to Queenie's apartment. I loved the journey of The Wild Party, not only for the artists involved, but for the audience and the company."
In early 2018, Lynch left the operas to commit to designing full-time. He had already moved to Chicago and felt it was time to take his career to the next level: "I was ready to take that leap into design as additional opportunities arose for BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) artists in the American Theatre. The industry was finally making more space for us, which was great." By the end of the year, Lynch had secured the role of assistant lighting designer for some productions at Chicago's renowned Goodman Theatre. At the same time, he was travelling back and forth to Texas where he continued to build his design portfolio with various projects at the Dallas Theater Center and the Alley Theatre in Houston, among others.
2019 proved to be a banner year for Lynch. He impressed with his designs for some Goodman Theatre productions, including the critically acclaimed world premiere of Ike Holter's Lottery Day, and for more than a handful of other productions at different theatres around Chicago. He also designed productions at regional theatres across the country including the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. All-in-all, he added an awe-inspiring fourteen lighting designer credits to his resume. The Chicago artistic community also began to formally recognize his work, awarding him the 2019 Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award, which honors outstanding emerging theatrical designers.
More recognition may be on its way. This year, Lynch has been nominated for a Black Theater Alliance Award for his design of Kill Move Paradise produced by the Timeline Theatre Company, and for a Joseph Jefferson Award for his design of Sheepdog at the Shattered Globe Theatre. Winners for both awards will be announced in November.
Lynch remains very down-to-earth, expressing a sincere gratitude for each of the opportunities he has been given, even if he cannot quite remember every production: "It's all running together now. It's been nonstop."
For Lynch, 2020 was on track to be his busiest yet, but like so many others, his career has been put on pause. While waiting for theatres to re-open, he has spent much of his time reaching out to young theatre professionals and students. In online forums, Lynch gives students practical advice, encouragement, and emotional support. His optimism is contagious, despite the circumstances, and he shares his enthusiasm for the future with anyone willing to listen: "There is a reason why we do what we do. It's for excitement! With lighting, I always like to amp up environments. Usually for me it's in color. I love saturation, and I love emotion."