SPOTLIGHT: Historic Aurora theater restored

By Susan Dibble

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Published: Wednesday, April 4 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

The endowment board tripled its annual support of the Paramount to $240,000 to enable the theater to launch the Broadway series.

Dick Hawks was serving as chairman of the Civic Center Authority when the decision was made for the Paramount to create its own Broadway shows. The productions of "My Fair Lady," ''Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," ''A Chorus Line" and "Hair" have been a great success this season, he said.

"It's wonderful. It's been so well-accepted by the community," he said.

The Broadway series was started under the leadership of Tim Rater, who was hired as the Paramount's executive director in 2010. Dick Hawks recalls that he and the rest of the Civic Center Authority board looked at more than 100 resumes before they made their choice.

"Just a fabulous executive director," he said. "The finest I've had the pleasure of working with in many years in theater."

Rater, in turn, brought in award-winning director, actor and choreographer Jim Corti as the Paramount's first artistic director to oversee the Broadway series.

"He (Corti) is the nicest human being," Dick Hawks said. "He shows great compassion and love of theater."

A trader on the Mercantile Exchange before he retired, Dick Hawks downplays his own knowledge of theater. But he served as the Paramount's interim executive director twice. While in college, he had small, but paying parts as an actor and he has played roles in community theater. He grew up in Batavia and came to the Paramount as boy to watch movies and vaudeville.

A native of New Jersey, Arlene Hawks has been performing since she was 6 years old. She was traveling as a guitar-playing soloist when she met Dick while performing in Aurora.

Arlene holds a doctorate in theater and served as director of drama at East Aurora High School for 32 years before retiring in 2005. The school's "Arlene S. Hawks" Auditorium is named after her.

Known as "drama mama" around Aurora, she has directed Fox Valley Park District's Summer Stage program for years and coordinates the city's Summer Drama Camp, now in its third year.

Arlene said involvement in theater can help children in all their life experiences.

"It's definitely an opportunity to expand their horizons in the world of imagination and creativity," she said. "Everyone should try it, even if they don't think they have talent."

As much as the Hawks have contributed to theater in Aurora, it is by no means the end of their community involvement. Dick Hawks serves on the boards of Aurora University, the Waubonsee Community College foundation and the Aurora Public Library.

Both he and Arlene recently were honored for their work with CASA Kane County on behalf of abused and neglected children. Arlene also has given her support to such organizations as the Fox Valley United Way, Aurora Public Art Commission, Communities in Schools, Kiwanis International of Aurora and Provena Senior Services.

"They just take on a challenge and seem to enjoy it," said friend Hilary Brennan, who has been involved with many of the same volunteer activities.

"They're a couple who have amazing energy and vitality. They're just all-around good people and they care about their home in Aurora."

Arlene said after she moved to Aurora and found their home was only about a block from the Paramount, she knew she wanted to do all she could to help the theater survive and thrive.

"You don't get something like this in your backyard, and here it was," she said.

Information from: Daily Herald, http://www.dailyherald.com

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