ORLANDO, Fla. – A Central Florida nonprofit that serves children and adults with autism is expanding its services, which include helping participants gain skills and confidence on the stage and in their everyday lives.
The Running Man Theatre Company is a troupe for actors of all abilities.
The company is currently preparing for their upcoming performance of “Shrek the Musical, Jr.”
Actor Daniel Horta is performing the lead of Shrek. He said the company gives everyone a platform to show off their skills.
“It means anyone can be an actor,” Horta said.
Edwin Vazquez is performing the role of Donkey.
“Every play that I’ve been in is always an opportunity to show my talents as an actor in a play,” Vazquez said.
The theatre 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 serves children and adults with autism and other disabilities.
“It is our belief that every individual who walks through our door has an opportunity in our community to shine with 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’re partnering with the nonprofit “Central Florida Dreamplex” to provide critical services under one roof, including an early intervention program, as well as physical, occupational and speech therapies.
“They can get mental health counseling, behavioral support services from OCA. They can get adult programs, they can get our recreational programs,” Haas said. “All of the programs are coming together for one purpose and that’s to focus on ability and ensure that our participants always have an opportunity in the community and we’re seeing their abilities shine.”
Haas said they’re also focused on answering the question parents who have children with autism ask: Where is my child going to live when we can no longer care for them?
“That is a big question that we want to put a stamp on so we’re working very hard to be able to answer that question,” Haas said.
As for the actors, Haas said they’re learning skills for the show that carry over into their everyday lives.
“They are communicating more effectively with their parents, they’re communicating more effectively with their classmates and their peers. They are gaining confidence,” she said.
And this is giving actors, like Horta, the chance to shine in the spotlight.
“It’s an opportunity for anyone to be able to learn about life and kind of branch out,” Horta said.
The Running Man Theatre Company’s performance of “Shrek the Musical, Jr.” is scheduled for Tuesday, April 26 and Wednesday, April 27 at the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College. Click here for ticket information.