JOHN GAWLIK is an Ensemble Member and Managing Director of The Gift. He officially joined The Gift Theatre in 2004, although he was first found laughing in the audience for the inaugural performance of The Gift’s Boy’s Life, back in 2001. You could say he was a cast member of several legendary Gift pool parties at Artistic Director Michael Patrick Thornton’s house over the summers of 2001-2004. (Always chaperoned by everyone’s honorary parents, Rita and Frank Thornton.) His first official time on stage with The Gift was in Naomi Izuka’s Language of Angels in 2003, where he played the role of a mysterious Sheriff. This was not the first time playing a law enforcement role. In fact, Gawlik has portrayed an officer of the law in over 25 roles on stage, film, and television. He has his Irish-American mother and Polish-American father to thank for a Chicago mug straight out of a Carl Sandburg poem.
As an actor and director, John Gawlik has had the honor of working on many of The Gift’s productions including directing The Pavilion, The Good Thief, Blithe Spirit, Wit, The Ruby Sunrise, Thinner Than Water, The Royal Society of Antarctica, A Life Extra Ordinary, and Doubt: A Parable. As an actor, John has appeared in: Language of Angels, The Beauty Queen of Lennane, Streamers, Lonesome West, Oh The Humanity, Broadsword, Good For Otto, and TEN.
The Gift feels right. When you walk around this planet figuring out who you are, you come across all sorts of people who frighten you, inspire you, love you, bully you, hate you, and enjoy you. Most of the time, you know right away whether or not you want to spend more than ten seconds in the presence of this or that person. At The Gift, I feel challenged but safe. It feels comfortable but ever-evolving. To me, The Gift is a place for questioning, investigating my own bias, my limits of creativity and my preconceived notions of storytelling. Ultimately, it has become a place to become a better human. Might seem like a tall order for a theatre company but it’s really about the stories and storytellers in the Ensemble and the room that demands, coaxes and inspires, mostly, the best of me.
It’s not hyperbole to say, that at moments, The Gift has been the most compassionate, loving place to be. I lost my father a while back. He was sick but able to make the final preview of The Lonesome West. I could see him beaming in the front row, sitting next to my mom and his walker. It’s a very comically dark play and he was laughing all the way through. He died during the run. I ended up missing one show, but returning the evening after my father’s funeral. Coincidentally, the opening scene of The Lonesome West begins with my character and his brother coming home from our father’s funeral. (My brother, in the play, and in life, was Ensemble Member John Kelly Connolly, who we also recently lost.) At that moment, the space, the stage, and fellow Ensemble Members John Connolly, Brittany Burch, and Paul D’Addario helped me process the nascent grief and the fresh loss of my father. It’s a memory that returns often.
John was born in Texas and raised in the western suburbs of Chicago. He is a graduate of St. Ignatius High School and Marquette University. He lives with his wife, Ensemble Member Maggie Andersen, and their son, Archie. He is a member of the Swedish Fish Masters Swim Team and is learning to play the bagpipes with his son.