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.
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.
Rebecca Wahls - Artistic Associate and Senior Teaching Artist
Rebecca holds a BFA in Theater from George Mason University. She has worked with AFYP since Fall 2012 teaching for after school, summer camp, and showcase programs. She is currently appearing in AFYP's touring shows A Penny Saved and The Adventures of Polly Pedestrian and is directing the new touring production for Pre-K audiences, Swings and Slides. Rebecca writes and directs the Advanced (Fall) and Mini Actors' (Fall/Spring) showcase programs. Some recent professional directing work includes Dark Times at Grimesville High (Official Extension Week Selection, Capital Fringe Festival 2016), The 3rd Annual One Minute Play Festival, and Mother Knows Best (Rabble Crew Productions). She also assistant directs at DC area theatre companies such as Forum, 1st Stage, and Constellation Theatre Company. Catch her work this summer with at the Source Festival and Who What Where Theater's Production of the new play We Found the Wild Things. (rebeccawahls.com)
Zachary Wilcox, Logistics Coordinator, Administrative Assistant, and Senior Teaching Artist
Zachary holds a BA in Theater from George Mason University with concentrations in performance, playwriting, and dramaturgy. He has been a teaching artist with AFYP since Fall 2013. He is a resident actor with the company, currently appearing in AFYP's touring shows A Penny Saved and The Adventures of Polly Pedestrian, and is the Logistics Coordinator for summer camp and showcase programs. Zach also co-wrote AFYP's newest touring production for Pre-K audiences, Swings & Slides. While at Mason Zach's work as an actor, playwright, and dramaturg was seen twelve productions with the Mason Players; some favorite credits include Tom in An Experiment with an Air Pump, the Aristocrat in The Blue Room, and dramaturg for Dido, Queen of Carthage.