By Tamas Mondovics

Close to 700 students, fellow actors, devoted audience members, school administration, family and friends, along with fellow art and drama teachers, filled the Riverview High School auditorium last month to celebrate the life of former drama teacher, Florida State thespian director and founder of the Riverview Little Theater, Daron Hawkins.

The event entitled “Love and Laughter”…. a Musical Celebration of Daron Hawkins’ Life, was organized to celebrate Hawkins’ success and accomplishments as well as to reflect on his unquestionable impact on the community after his passing in September from a battle with an illness. He was 38.

“The committee had planned the event to give Mr. Hawkins one final standing-room-only show,” said Performing Arts Company President and Music Director, Ellen Kleinschmidt. “The event was to honor an amazing man who lived and worked tirelessly in the community and made such a difference in so very many lives.”

Following a warm welcome by Riverview High School Principal, Robert Heilmann, who spoke highly of Hawkins’ impact on the students, the event showcased dozens of singers, dancers, actors and colleagues that paid tribute by performing in true Broadway fashion.

For weeks prior to the show, students and fellow actors worked to rehearse songs and dances as lights were adjusted, microphones fitted and monologues and creative tributes were being written.

A multi-talented cast of local and national performers were also on hand to honor a man undoubtedly dedicated to the arts and who had no difficulty with inspiring the community, making it a wonderfully creative place to live.

“This was a wonderful reunion of art theater groups as people came from all over the country giving testimony to Mr. Hawkins’ impact on the theater world,” Kleinschmidt said.

Hawkins is greatly missed by all who knew him and those who have only seen his work performed by his actors young and old, but his legacy will live on through the many he taught.

With heavy hearts, but a renewed zeal, Riverview High School will continue its well-respected drama and theater program under the direction of Aaron Washington, who was also instrumental in directing Hawkins’ music-filled memorial celebration of life tribute.

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