About Excelsior

Official Announcement

Excelsior Arts Academy set to open in January

  • Updated 
Excelsior Arts Academy
These board members, officers and faculty members are leading the new Excelsior Arts Academy in Auburn. In front, from left, are Mary Kay Clark, director of drama; Tracy Barse, board member; Jama Smith, secretary; Craig Wehr, vice president; and Terri Turner, board member. In back, from left, are John Davis, treasurer; Jacob Kern, president; Kent Johnson, executive director; Shelley Johnson, director of voice; Heidi Christensen, board member; and Alicia Smith, director of stage movement.

AUBURN — Excelsior Arts Academy and Youth Theater has been formed in Auburn to provide instructional classes in drama, stage movement and voice for students ages 8-22.

Classes will meet for one hour per week, will last for 10 weeks and will occur in late afternoons, evenings and weekends, the academy announced.

Executive Director Kent Johnson said the Academy will complement speech and theater programs already in place in local schools and will prepare students for auditions and rehearsals.

The academy’s core faculty is comprised of Kent Johnson, Mary Kay Clark as director of drama, Alicia Smith as director of stage movement and Shelley Johnson as director of voice.

Classes will begin in January in the academy’s temporary home at First Christian Church on North Indiana Avenue until a permanent home can be obtained. Johnson said the academy is grateful to the church for welcoming it.

Classes, fee schedules, times and how to apply will be announced in October, he said.

The academy’s Youth Theater will offer three stage productions and two showcases each year to allow students to display the skills they have learned at the academy. Cast members do not have to be enrolled in the academy to audition for the stage productions.

The theater will produce its first show — “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens — Dec. 6, 7 and 8 in the newly constructed fellowship hall of the First United Methodist Church in Auburn. “These wonderful facilities are made possible through the heartwarming generosity of the church,” Kent Johnson said.

Anyone can audition for ”A Christmas Carol,” regardless of age, with auditions scheduled for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Exact times and place will be announced later.

Excelsior Arts Academy and Youth Theater recently seated its newly formed board of directors. Members of the board are Jacob Kern, president; Craig Wehr, vice president; John Davis, treasurer; Jama Smith, secretary; Tracy Barse, Terri Turner and Heidi Christensen.

“Excelsior is very grateful to the 23 members of the advisory committee that helped with all of the initial organization and guidance,” Kent Johnson said.

Excelsior Arts Academy and Youth Theater is organized as a not-for-profit corporation in Indiana. Individuals or organizations who wish to contribute to the academy may contact Kent Johnson through email at kentdjohnson76@gmail.com or by mobile phone at 413-3747. All contributions are tax-deductible, he said.

More information is available at Excelsior Arts Academy on Facebook or excelsiorartsacademy.com.


Executive Director – Kent Johnson



After high school, Kent Johnson joined the Auburn Community Theater in 1977 and it was there that he also began building sets and ultimately directing shows.  From 1980 through 1982 Kent and his wife Shelley acted in the Ft Wayne Civic Theater where he received an Anthony award for his role of Curly in Oklahoma!  Kent & Shelley returned to Auburn and founded Club Flamingo, a musical review theater they operated from 1983 through 1985.  In 1985, Shelley started teaching vocal music at DeKalb High School in Waterloo Indiana where Kent co-directed over 60 shows with her as well as being the Technical Director.  Since 2008, Kent has served as Vice President of the DeKalb Outdoor Theater where he oversees all aspects of the theater including booking the entertainment and overseeing the volunteer workers (as well as popping popcorn).  Kent, along with his wife Shelley, has received the Allen Graber Citizen of the Year Award (2012), Medal of Arts Award (2017), Indiana University Purdue University Ft Wayne (IPFW) Leadership Impact Award in Community Leadership (2018) and Indiana House of Representatives Recognition of Achievement House Resolution (2018).


Director of Drama – Mary Kay Clark

Mary Kay Clark bio pic

Mary Kay Clark began her love of play writing and directing when she was in 8th grade! She has been a director and playwright for 25 years starting at Novi Theatres (Michigan). There she founded the “little people players,” an acting group designed for 8-11 year olds and directed youth ages 8-18. She moved to southern Ohio where she directed and taught acting and makeup classes with Yellow Springs Kids Playhouse. Mary Kay moved back to her hometown 7 years ago and worked at Country Meadow Elementary where she built a theater program teaching students to be onstage as well as how to run the lights and sound and work the backstage. She also created a daily news and entertainment show, Hawk News, empowering students to write, record and edit each day. Some of her favorite scripts she has written and produced are Fractured Fairy Tales, a story of how a boy and a fairy rewrite fairy tales taking out the kissing, Sleeping Beauty Unplugged, where the past collides with the present and technology, and Beauty and the Beast Revisited, a fun parody of the original. Although she loves writing and directing, she is also familiar with performing having played roles such as Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn in Music Man and the Wicked Witch in Wizard of Oz. Mary Kay is excited to seek this new adventure with Excelsior Academy for the Performing Arts in Auburn.


Director of Music – Shelley Johnson


Shelley Johnson received her BA Music from Indiana University where she was in the marching band – The Marching Hundred as well as the Singing Hoosiers.  Shelley taught elementary music along with high school band in Lagrange Indiana at Lakeland School Corporation before teaching middle school vocal music at DeKalb Middle School. Shelley was involved with the Auburn Community Theater where she held many roles including Guinevere in Camelot.  Shelley and her husband Kent acted in the Ft Wayne Civic Theater in the early 80’s holding a variety of roles including Grace in their production of Annie. Kent & Shelley returned to Auburn and founded Club Flamingo, a musical review theater they operated from 1983 through 1985.  In 1985, Shelley moved to DeKalb High School where she was director of Choral Music and oversaw the 4 time State Champion mixed show choir – Classic Connection, the 3 time State Champion women’s show choir – Sound Sensation and the State qualifying Jazz ensemble – The Dynamix.  Shelley co-directed over 60 theatrical performances with her husband Kent while at DeKalb as well as overseeing all of the costuming while there.  Currently, Shelley is a vocal music and theater teacher at Northrop High School in Ft. Wayne Indiana.


Director of Stage Movement – Alicia Smith


Alicia Smith has been dancing her whole life.  Through high school, she was very involved in the Patricia Krus School of Dance where she won numerous awards as a dancer.  Alicia was also a member of DeKalb High School’s show choir – Classic Connection where she was a featured performer her senior year.  In 2005 she became a full time instructor at the PK School of Dance and and in 2007, purchased the studio and renamed it Pure Dance.  From 2007 to 2015, Alicia was assistant director of the Lakeland High School Show choir where she created the staging and choreography as well as overseeing the costuming. Alicia has been on the Board of Directors for the DeKalb Outdoor Theater since 2007.  Since 2012, Alicia has been the event day coordinator and editor of communications for the Ft Wayne Dancesport Ballroom Special Olympics.  Alicia Smith received her BA in Psychology from IPFW

The Journey Begins

We are excited to announce the Excelsior Performing Arts Academy and Youth Theater for Northeast Indiana.  Our core faculty brings years of experience in the performing arts to our students.

At Excelsior, the student is the focus and though classes are in the performing arts, what the student really receives is confidence and poise.  The academy provides a nurturing environment where students feel safe to take chances without fear of failure or ridicule.  Excelsior provides a space where young minds can expand and achieve things they had only dreamed.  Learning respect for themselves and those around them, the student feels more confident and in control.

Cortney's monolouge

Students can take a wide range of classes in theater, vocal music and stage movement and then put those lessons to use through the various productions Excelsior stages each year.


Our Mission: to foster an educational and nurturing environment where developing  Performers can be opened to think for themselves and to be respectful of themselves and others. Excelsior is where we train minds, bodies, voices and spirits to achieve that end while providing art and education to the greater community.