In the early 2000s, Doug Pawlik was just a teenager, hanging out with friends or honing his music and acting skills on stage at Riverside-Brookfield High School.
Two decades later, the Brookfield native is an accomplished performer and artist, who has a major role in a world-premiere production with the renowned Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago.
Through July 16, Pawlik stars as Martin in Lookingglass’ “Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon,” a musical exploring the story of first-generation Asian American newlyweds who embrace “the worst of the American dream” — both adventures and misadventures — while road tripping across the country.
The play was written by Matthew C. Yee, who appeared on Broadway in “Almost Famous.”
“The show has a lot of dark humor [and] observations about current society,” Pawlik said. “It has some deep subjects which it deals with, but you leave the show hopefully having experienced a lot of different emotions. And, it has really great music —all the songs are super memorable and effective.”
In his role as Martin, Pawlik says his character is — to put bluntly — not a nice guy.
“Martin’s a dangerous man with a shady past,” he said. “A lot of shows have to have a bad guy, and Martin is not a nice guy. Martin is kind of the overarching danger in the show — the kind of bad guy that he is an amalgam of the things that are feared in American society, including people who take advantage of people in certain ways.”
A 2003 graduate of RBHS, Pawlik says his high school experience fostered his lifelong passion for music and theater. During his time at RBHS, Pawlik served as drum major of the marching band, performed as a lead actor in stage productions all four years, and was a founding member of the school’s chamber singers and men’s ensemble group.
“Diane Marelli and Kevin McOlgan were the choir and band directors while I was at RB, and they are some of the main reasons why me and several of my classmates really took a strong favor towards being artists, making music and theater,” he said. “The program was very strong back then, and I definitely credit everything I did at RB as what really led me to loving the arts.”
After receiving his B.A. in music performance in 2009 from North Central College in Naperville, Pawlik immersed himself in the theater world, both locally and nationwide.
He’s worked extensively at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace as a stage manager, backstage crew member and performer, acted at Paramount Theatre in Aurora and Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place in Chicago, and has performed nationally at The Pasadena Playhouse in California), Actors Theatre of Louisville and American Repertory Theater in Boston.
A commercial actor as well, Pawlik has appeared in TV commercials, and most recently, played a bank manager on an episode of NBC’s award-winning primetime drama, “Chicago Fire.”
“It is a constant effort that you’re looking for the next show, because shows in Chicago don’t run for years like they do on Broadway,” Pawlik said. “I’ll do a show for three months, and then I’m usually auditioning for something right after. It is the kind of job that you always have to keep yourself prepared and ready for auditions and in shape.”
In addition to acting, Pawlik sings with “The Four C Notes,” a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tribute band, and is a founding member of “Cowboy Jukebox,” a country-influenced alt-rock cover band.
Pawlik’s work with Lookingglass comes 11 years after performing as an understudy in a show and working with the company in a variety of workshops.
“Lookingglass is a very supportive theater for new work — they tend to do shows that are originals,” he said. “‘Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon’ is very fun, and we’re performing at an intimate theater where you’re not going to miss a moment no matter where you’re sitting. It’s very cool to be so close to experiencing this live, concert-like show.”
Now married to a fellow actor, Leah Morrow, and raising two daughters in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood, Pawlik’s message for young people interested in acting and music is simple: don’t be afraid to seek guidance from others and find a way to forge your own path.
“Start playing music, take voice lessons, participate in community theater — reach for that next step and try something that looks cool,” he said. “Keep your ears open, go to the theaters, find people who can get you in touch with others. It doesn’t matter where you come from — you can make something if you find people who are passionate and you just go for it.”
Lookingglass, which is celebrating 35 years of theater in Chicago, is located at 821 N. Michigan Ave. Late last week, the theater announced that due to ongoing struggles along with other nonprofit theaters across the country following the pandemic, it will be reducing staff and producing fewer shows and operating in different ways as it works to reimagine its future.
In a statement from theater leadership, Lookingglass added it will be launching a public campaign to raise $2.5 million to invest in the company’s future and remain committed to developing original programming and continued investment with Chicago Public Schools.
For more information about Lookingglass and to purchase tickets for “Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon,” visit lookingglasstheatre.org.