William Shakespeare once said that all the world’s a stage, but the ESCAPE Musical Theater program gives children a chance to pursue their passions on an actual stage.

Starting out in 2002, ESCAPE’s first home was in the halls of local grade schools. Now, it has its own studio, and boasts over 300 participants in the program. Youth ranging from kindergarten through high school can join the company.

“We went from one show a year, then maybe a year or two later, two shows a year, and now, this will be our third year with two shows and two weekends each,” artistic director Elizabeth Burson said.

ESCAPE is a family production in more ways than one; Burson herself is the artistic director, musical director, and conductor of the company, with her daughter Kayla Burson acting as a choreographer and her husband Kyle Burson as show director, set designer, and set fabricator.

Many other children participate in ESCAPE for years, doing a variety of shows such as Oliver!, Peter Pan, and The Sound of Music.

Some didn’t just participate in the company; they grew up in it.

“It was kind of like a childhood day care, in a sense, all four of us kids growing up in the company,” Kayla Burson stated. “Being brought up in the company just meant that theater was always my home. I can’t even consider … my life without ESCAPE Theater, and that just continued a passion past high school for performing for me.”

Those that participate in ESCAPE learn more than just theater and performance techniques. They learn about themselves and the heights they can reach.

“What we want them to do is have some confidence,” Kyle Burson said. “You can go into a job interview and say ‘Hey, I got no problem with this, I was in front of 900 people and performing , so it’s not as scary.’”

“I think it helps you to be creative, I think it helps you face your fears, I think that it helps you to talk to people of many different ages, (with) communication skills,” said Kayla.

After nine years, ESCAPE is doing the musical Li’l Abner once again at the PAC this month. For more information, visit their website at www.escapetheatre.org.

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