Jason Czernich '00 finds creativity in a varied career path
By Jane Gogarty '19 | Friday, December 21, 2018
By Jane Gogarty '19
Friday, December 21, 2018
The Department of Theater offers a broad-based training that imparts skills which are helpful beyond theater and its related disciplines — helpful for the many alumni whose career paths take them somewhere entirely different than the stage. UMass Department of Theater alum Jason Czernich ‘00 certainly proves this to be true. Jason graduated from UMass with a double major in Theater and English. He then chose to move out to Chicago to explore its flourishing improv comedy scene. After six years in Chicago, Jason returned to Massachusetts and now works as a Social Worker with Massachusetts Department of Children & Families. Jason described himself as a person who “likes to try on many hats” in all walks of life and was given plentiful opportunity to continue this in his time in the UMass Theater Department.
Jason’s decision to major in Theater upon his arrival at UMass stemmed from a longtime love for the art. Jason said Theater was “one of the first things I found I could do and was good at.” His love and curiosity for Theater was ultimately what pushed him to learn more about the craft at UMass. “Like they say, ‘do what you love’,” he said.
Interestingly, although he had auditioned and been accepted to one of UMass’s improv troups, his nerves got the better of him and he never performed with the group. Instead, he took classes in the department and found roles acting in community theater in the Pioneer Valley. He worked to conquer what is many actors’ biggest fear: “I think by the time I left UMass I wasn’t afraid of auditioning anymore. I think auditioning is exciting."
Jason described the well-rounded nature of the UMass Theater B.A. program as benefiting him greatly when he first moved to the Windy City. He was able to take the technical skills he had learned through classes and Theater 110s and apply them to his work in Chicago. “Taking all these different classes at UMass, not just performance, but also the backstage classes,” he said, “helped prep me being a stagehand.” During his time in Chicago, Jason also worked as an intern at acclaimed improv studios Improv Olympic and Second City Conservatory, a move that helped him afford the tuition. Taking classes at all three major theaters — Improv Olympic, Second City, and The Annoyance — allowed him to dive head first into the Chicago improv scene. “It was a community,” Jason says, “like the UMass Theater Department”.
After six years in Chicago, Jason chose to make the move back home to Massachusetts. After several office jobs, Jason was seeking something more permanent. Hoping to channel his creative problem-solving abilities into helping those in need, Jason chose to go back to school for his masters in Social Work. During his three-year program at Springfield College, Jason worked as a Therapeutic Training and Support intern with in-home therapists. During his final year in the program, Jason was hired as a Outpatient Therapist working with children in the Central Mass community. Now, Jason works as Social Worker for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. Jason credits his Theater degree and experience within the arts for his ability to think with creativity and empathy in his work. “Sometimes people are afraid to be creative,” Jason said. “It was a career where I knew I could work with children and be creative.”
While having chosen to pursue a career outside of the performing arts, Jason has not left the world of theater entirely. This past Spring he was involved in a production of Moisés Kaufman and Stephen Belber’s The Laramie Project.
Seen clearly through Jason’s journey, a degree in theater can lead to endless career paths. While for some that may be daunting, uncertainty contains potential for plenty of excitement and possibility.