Orlando theater company prepares to return to the stage amid the COVID-19 pandemic


ORLANDO, Fla. – An Orlando theater company serving children and adults with autism is bringing back live theater during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laura Hernandez prepares to return to the stage. She’s in the middle of rehearsals as she prepares to star in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” to occur.

“I love it because I like to sing the song. My favorite song is ‘Belle’s Song’ and ‘Home’, ”said Hernandez.

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The 26-year-old is an actor with the Running Man Theater Company, which is part of OCA. OCA stands for “Opportunity. Community. Ability.”

It is an Orlando non-profit organization that helps children and adults with autism and other disabilities.

The Running Man Theater Company serves actors with autism. (Image: Running Man Theater Company) (WKMG)

Silvia Haas is co-founder and managing director of the organization.

“It doesn’t matter who walks in our door, we want these people to have these three things: A skill-focused opportunity in our community,” said Haas. “OCA does that every day.”

According to Haas, OCA offers a variety of therapeutic programs. She said it has served more than 400 families since it opened in 2009.

According to Haas, the theater provides a platform for actors to show off their talents and shine as they learn their life skills.

“We’ve really seen tremendous growth in our actors ‘self-esteem, our actors’ ability to make eye contact,” said Haas.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the company to leave the left stage. The actors practiced virtually and recorded last year’s three performances.


Now the company is ready for its big show and is safely bringing live theater back by rehearsing outdoors, social distancing itself, and wearing masks.

Hernandez said she looks forward to seeing them during the Frontyard Festival at the Dr. Phillips Center to perform in person again.

“I love to act because it’s so much fun,” said Hernandez.

Haas adds that this is more than just a musical for the actors and their families.

The Running Man Theater Company serves actors with autism. (Image: Running Man Theater Company) (WKMG)

“Having these normal experiences for a family with a disabled child is invaluable. That can never be replaced, ”said Haas. “That memory will stay with these families forever because they have been accepted for who they are and understood, and that’s what OCA stands for.”

Tickets for the performance of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.” by the Running Man Theater Company will be on sale soon. The performance will take place on Monday, May 3rd at 7 p.m.

For more information on OCA, click here.

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Janet Smith