by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor, East County Observer

East County resident Amity Hoffman was 13 when she became addicted to theater.

Over her years of acting, there were many times she felt the other actors weren’t committed or engaged in what they were doing. The sense of camaraderie was lacking.

So while working with the Venice Theater in 2001, she became enamored with the camaraderie and enthusiasm she saw in actors from the Loveland Center, an organization dedicated to adults with disabilities. Its 50-member troupe met Thursday mornings October through June at the Venice Theater to rehearse and finally perform.

“It’s like the joy of theater times 100,” Hoffman said. “This is the most fun theater can be. The feel of that group is nothing but joy.”

“They’ve got personality up there. It’s so enthralling. That’s what theater should be,” she said.

Hoffman, a Hidden Oaks resident, knew one day she wanted to film a documentary about it. She began the project, called “The Best Show in Town,” five years ago, and now the film is ready.

The Loveland Center, a troupe of actors with special needs, performs “The Best Show in Town” at the Venice Theater. The group represents one of many theater programs Amity Hoffman hopes to promote. Courtesy photo.

She currently is trying to raise $17,000 for post-production costs, as well as the insurance, legal fees and other requirements for having a film shown at theaters or even at film festivals. Fundraising kicked off Sept. 8, and the trailer for the film went live on her website.

She hopes the film will raise financial support and awareness not only for The Loveland Center, but also for similar programs nationwide.

“This started when I was in school at Manatee Technical College,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman had a degree in theater from Wichita State University, but had worked for an accounting firm for 15 years. While she enjoyed the work, she longed for something different.

“I was starting to lose myself a little bit and I wanted to get back into something creative,” she said.

Hoffman enrolled in a video production class at MTC, and during her 2015-2016 school year, she wanted her final project to be a documentary. Having costumed The Loveland Center’s production at Venice Theater in prior years, she knew her focus: Showcasing how theater was transforming the lives of individuals with disabilities.

Hoffman, who has two children — Madeline, 14, and Max, 12 — sometimes struggled to sort through material and carve out time for the project. She wondered if the film was proving to be any good. She had support, however, from her family, friends and two others in the film industry — Amanda Lukoff, who made a documentary called “The R Word” about the use of the word “retarded,” and from Jason Morrillo, owner of TruColor Production in Bradenton.

“There were so many times I wanted to quit,” she said. “The group is worth it. They’ve given me so much time.  It seemed wrong not to get it done.”

“What I learned was a lot of these actors had come to the group with severe anxiety or extreme shyness,” Hoffman said. “Some were nonverbal.”

Hoffman heard stories of lives changed, not just on the stage, but in day-to-day life. One participant gained so much confidence he now buses tables at a restaurant and lives on his own.

“That’s huge,” Hoffman said. “This is the first generation of disabled (people) who are going to outlive their parents. The problem is day programs like the Loveland Center are severely underfunded. Parents can’t afford to put them in these programs, which make them feel like they have a purpose.”

“There’s this perception they are not capable, and that’s not the case,” she said. “They’re so vibrant.”

Hoffman said Loveland Center shows are so engaging you cannot help but fall in love with the actors.

Her initial goal is to show “The Best Show in Town” at film festivals, such as ReelAbilities, the largest festival in the U.S. dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with disabilities.

Her second goal is to partner with theaters to have local showings of the film. She hopes it can air with Loveland Center-like troupes in audience and it can be used for both advocacy and fundraising.

“I’m hoping this will encourage people to find a troupe and support them,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said she hopes to complete another documentary in the future, but does not have any immediate plans to do so. For now, she is focused on promoting “The Best Show in Town” and using it to advocate for those with disabilities and theater programs supporting them.


Want to learn more, see the trailer for “The Best Show in Town” documentary or make a donation toward getting it on the big screen at