Running Man Theatre Spotlights Actors With Autism

Running Man Theatre Spotlights Actors With Autism

The Running Man Theatre is like any other young theatrical troupe -the actors attend rehearsals and learn their lines, they make their props and costumes and the director coaches them to Great Performances. The only difference with this theatre company is that the actors have autism - a disorder that impairs communication and social connections.

"To be on stage and to have a scene - you've got to have a connection. So, what we do in theater, translates to their lives," said Dana Brazil, the award-winning theater educator who is directing the company's holiday production.

Brazil launched The Running Man Theatre company as a way to work with participants of OCA, an organization that provides a variety of services to individuals with autism from early intervention for toddlers to vocational training for adults.

The theater company has performed at the Florida Theatre Conference the past three years and this year, OCA secured a grant from Universal Orlando Foundation to mount this year's holiday production.

"The Universal Orlando Foundation is committed to fostering a love of the arts for all throughout Central Florida," said Diane O'Dell, Vice President, Community & Diversity

Relations at Universal Orlando. "We are excited to support the work of Running Man Theatre and its talented young performers."

"It's important to give our actors a full theatrical experience, on a stage with lighting and an audience," said Brazil. A sentiment echoed by OCA executive director, Silvia Haas, who founded the organization on the principles of opportunity, community and ability.

"Our kids have a wide range of abilities, and our goal is to maximize their unique talents by providing these learning and performance opportunities," said Haas.

The actors, ages 10 to 26, will perform the full-length play A Seussified Christmas

Carol at the Orlando Repertory Theatre- Bush Theatre at 7 p.m. on December 19. Most of the cast have special needs, including autism and Down syndrome. They are joined on stage by one or two performers that work with Brazil's pre-professional training program. The pre-professional actors integrate with the Running Man Theatre actors in the cast and serve as mentors back stage and guides onstage.

"It's a win for everyone," said Brazil, who notes that in the three years she has worked with the participants of OCA, she and the parents have seen improved speech and an increase in social skills and confidence.

A Seussified Christmas Carol is a free production and open to the public. Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2018. Time: 7 p.m.. Place: Orlando Repertory Theatre- Bush Theatre, 1001 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL 32803

For information about OCA, visit GoOca.org

OCA is A Special Place for Special Needs, with a mission to enable individuals with autism and other disabilities the opportunity to improve on the quality of life through a multidisciplinary approach. OCA offers early intervention, recreational programs and adult vocational training.

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