ORLANDO, Florida. – A Central Florida nonprofit that serves children and adults with autism is expanding its services, including helping participants build skills and confidence on stage and in their daily lives.
The Running Man Theater Company is a troupe of actors of all skill levels.
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The company is currently planning its next performance of “Shrek the Musical, Jr.”
Actor Daniel Horta plays the lead role of Shrek. He said the company gives everyone a platform to show off their skills.
“That means anyone can be an actor,” Horta said.
Edwin Vazquez plays the role of Donkey.
“Every play I’ve done is always an opportunity to show off my acting skills in a play,” Vazquez said.
Theater company is one of many programs offered at OCA, which stands for Opportunity, Community, and Ability. OCA CEO Silvia Haas said the nonprofit was founded 13 years ago. It is aimed at children and adults with autism and other disabilities.
“We believe that every individual who walks through our door has an opportunity in our community to shine in their abilities,” Haas said.
Haas said they are expanding their offerings after the organization moved into a new 2,300 square foot building last summer. Haas said they are partnering with the nonprofit “Central Florida Dreamplex” to provide essential services under one roof, including an early intervention program, as well as physical, occupational and speech therapy. .
“They can get mental health counseling and behavioral support services from the OCA. They can get adult programs, they can get our recreational programs,” Haas said. “All of the programs come together for one purpose and that is to focus on abilities and to make sure our participants always have an opportunity in the community and we see their abilities shine.”
Haas said they are also working to answer the question parents with autistic children ask: where will my child live when we can no longer care for them?
“It’s a big question that we want to put a buffer on, so we’re working really hard to be able to answer that question,” Haas said.
As for the actors, Haas said they learn skills for the show that carry over to their daily lives.
“They communicate more effectively with their parents, they communicate more effectively with their classmates and their peers. They gain confidence,” she said.
And it gives actors, like Horta, the chance to shine in the spotlight.
“It’s an opportunity for anyone to be able to learn more about branch life and genre,” Horta said.
The Running Man Theater Company’s performance of “Shrek the Musical, Jr.” is scheduled for Tuesday, April 26 and Wednesday, April 27 at the Annie Russell Theater at Rollins College. Click here for ticket information.
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