Providing young people of all abilities endless opportunities in the performing arts.

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We work with youth ages 5-21 to create original theatre featuring artists of all abilities. As part of guided programs (Sessions), students join in twice-monthly Workshops led by professional artists and present a live performance.

Recognizing the need for more inclusive and accommodating youth theatre programs, Papa Tank launched in 2023.

The Theatre is the brainchild of Bryann Burgess, a local musical theatre artist born with Down Syndrome.

Alongside Larry Hembree—leader of many local arts nonprofits—Bryann sought to create a program where young people with unique abilities could share in the joys of the arts.

What started as a pilot program funded by the Central Carolina Community Foundation is now a mainstay of the community, offering students of all abilities a friendly, safe space to access the arts.

We get our namesake from Papa Tank, the grandfather of co-founder Bryann Burgess.

A veteran and prisoner of war during World War II, Papa Tank always lived by his values—fearless determination, perseverance, and a dedication to valuing everyone equally.

In the spirit of Papa Tank, we’re about having no limits, including everyone, and having the bravery to try new experiences—all while having fun!

Embracing and respecting the uniqueness of all people, we create artistic opportunities for young artists and families.


Believe everyone harbors an artist inside them and has a story to tell

Value the uniqueness in everyone

Honor the process of creating art, the product is secondary

Know experiencing the power and beauty of uniqueness and inclusion creates a better world

Acknowledge that we are limitless

Understand that our work must focus on removing labels

Agree that havng fun unleashes the creative spirit

Want to be a part of our community? Consider making a gift in support of our mission.

Support Our Mission

Papa Tank Theatre for Inclusion is beginning to establish itself in the Midlands as we are enjoying working in our new venue and cultivating new and exciting partnerships.

In 2024, we will explore additional ways to accommodate our performers, our artists, and our unique audience.

We’re also looking to further our impact by increasing our community outreach, improving our social media presence, and offering additional opportunities to our students.

In order to ensure access to youth of all socioeconomic backgrounds, our programming is kept affordable—meaning most of our funding comes from the support of our community.

Meet Our Staff & Board

Bryann Burgess


William Mitchell

Marketing Director

Tonya Cobb

Managing Director

Larry Hembree

Board Chair

Mary Kessler

Board Vice-Chair

Laura Cameron

Board Treasurer

Sara Betenbaugh

Board Secretary

David Kulbersh

Board Member

Alison Trotter

Board Member

Jennifer Aplin

Board Member

Nekita Marlin

Board Member

Katie Alice Walker

Board Member

Cindy Cox

Board Member

Melissa Swick Elington

Board Member

Robert Ellington

Board Member

Tyler Jones

Board Member

Thank you to our sponsors!

Want to become a sponsor of Papa Tank Theatre for Inclusion? Make a gift or contact us today!

St. Martin's-in-the-Fields Foundation
St. Martin's-in-the-Fields Foundation
South Carolina Arts Commission
South Carolina Arts Commission
Homes for the Holidays
Homes for the Holidays
David & Jane Kulbersh
David & Jane Kulbersh
Central Carolina Community Foundation
Central Carolina Community Foundation