Meet Our Artistic Team
Mary Lechter - Founder/Artistic Director
A graduate of University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater and Speech Communications, Mary has been working professionally as an actor in the metropolitan Washington-area, Los Angeles, and New York since 1985. She has worked at Washington area theaters including Theater of the First Amendment, Arena Stage, Studio Theatre, and Source Theatre. Television, radio and film credits include ABC’s All My Children, Barry Levinson’s Avalon, Diesel Films’ Dracula’s Mother, the MGM/Lionsgate thriller Hit and Run, and several spots for NPR’s Morning Edition.
Mary founded AFYP in 1997, and has seen the company grow from being its only teacher with a sporadic program schedule in rented spaces to where it is today: a year-round program with a full staff, working in conjunction with Potomac Arts Academy, for which she is Associate Director.
She is a longtime member of Mason’s School of Theater faculty in the areas of Performance and Theater Education. She was named a 2013 “Teacher of Distinction” and was a 2014 TEDxGeorgeMasonU speaker (“Magic Moments: the Transformative Power of Theater"). She previously taught at the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Her professional memberships include The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Actor’s Equity Association, and the Educational Theatre Association.
Mary’s directing credits include An Experiment with an Air Pump and Shakespeare in Hollywood (George Mason University); Still Beating Hearts and A Godless Man (Theater of the First Amendment First Light Festival); Happy Holidays, Charlie Brown, 101 Dalmatians, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play; Willy Wonka, Jr.; Peter Pan, Jr.; A Seussified Christmas Carol; Alice in Wonderland, Jr. (AFYP).
Kaity Cookson - Assistant Director of Outreach and Programs
Kaity is an alumna of George Mason University and graduated, cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater and a minor in Dramatic Literature in 2011. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Arts Management at GMU. Kaity has been a part of the Acting For Young People team since 2008, working as a teaching artist in after school, summer camp, and showcase programs, and as the resident stage manager for all of AFYP's educational and touring productions. She also contributes to the day-to-day operations of AFYP as an Assistant Director of Outreach and Programs.
Kaity has an extensive background in the arts and education. She has taught children ranging from early childhood through high school levels for over eight years. In her time as a student at GMU, she participated in many stage productions as an actor, stage manager, and technician. Kaity served on the board for GMU's producing group, the Mason Players, for three years, and co-founded GMU's chapter of Alpha Psi Omega, the theater honor fraternity. She received the Chris Parsons Achievement Award for her work with the theater department in 2010. Kaity has also worked professionally as a stage manager in the DC Metro Area.
Jessica Teaford - Assistant Director of Outreach and Programs
Jessica brings her knowledge and experience of fundraising, marketing, and event management to help further the wonderful programs offered by Acting for Young People and Potomac Arts Academy. Jessica joined the Acting For Young People (AFYP) family in 2008, working as a teaching artist in the after school, summer camp, and showcase programs. During her time at AFYP she has worked with ages kindergarten to high school both in the classroom and on stage. She has also held an integral role in the day to day operations of the organization.
Originally from southwestern Virginia, Jessica relocated to Northern Virginia to attend George Mason University. In 2011 she received her B.A. in Theater from Mason with a minor in Event Management and Tourism. While an undergraduate, Jessica’s work as a stage manager, production manager, costume designer, properties designer, and as an actor could be seen in over thirty theatrical productions with the Mason Players. Jessica received a masters in Arts Management from Mason in 2012. Jessica has an extensive background in the arts, working professionally as an actress, stage manager, and events planner with organizations in the Washington D.C. area such as Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and The Keegan Theater. Additionally she served as the Production Manager for TEDxGeorgeMasonU, an annual independently organized TED event at George Mason University, for four years. (jessteaford.com)
Miria Varghese - Development and Marketing Associate
Miria’s journey with AFYP began in 2009, as a grants consultant, to help raise funds for AFYP’s newly developed touring program. Miria joined AFYP as its development associate in 2012, where she has since been growing AFYP’s online and institutional fundraising initiatives. Prior to joining AFYP, Miria served as development associate for Theater of the First Amendment and as an administrative assistant with the Arlington Arts Center. She holds a MBA from Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship, Bangalore, India and M.A in Arts Management from George Mason University.