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 Mason Community 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.; Seussical, Jr,; A Midwinter Eve's Dream; Beauty and the Beast, Jr.; Singin' in the Rain, Jr,; and Mulan, Jr. (AFYP), and James and the Giant Peach, Jr.
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.
Zachary Wilcox - Assistant Director of Outreach and Programs
Zachary started at AFYP in 2013 as a Teaching Artist in the after school program, and grew to be included as the Logistics Coordinator for showcase, workshop, and summer camp programs, a Resident Actor for professional productions, and an Administrative Assistant before becoming AFYP's Assistant Director of Outreach and Programs. Recently, Zach co-wrote AFYP's newest professional production, Swings and Slides. He is thrilled to serve Acting For Young People and Mason Community Arts Academy’s many programs and families.
Zach has a passion for the arts, which he loves to express through acting and writing. He is a co-founder and co-artistic director of Who What Where Theater Collective, which had its premier production We Found the Wild Things in July of 2017, and looks forward to creating professional quality performances for years to come. He holds a BA in Theatre from George Mason University with concentrations in performance and playwriting/dramaturgy where he graduated magna cum laude in 2015. Since then, he has continued his acting training at Studio Theatre in D.C. and continues writing as often as possible.
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.
Annie Lewis – Company Manager & Administrative Associate
Annie began working with Acting for Young People in the summer of 2015 as an intern on the administration team. After graduation, she worked as an administrative assistant before her position transitioned into AFYP’s company manager and administrative associate. Annie graduated from Regent University in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance. After graduation, she spent a summer in Bloomfield, IN at Shawnee Summer Theatre as props master, electrician, and actor. Upon her return to Fairfax, she worked with George Mason University’s Center for the Arts as the Assistant House Manager for a season before moving to Maryland for a summer to work with Olney Theatre Center as an electrical apprentice. Annie now resides in Fairfax and works as a freelance theatrical electrician in addition to her work with AFYP.
Rebecca Wahls - Artistic Associate and Senior Teaching Artist
Rebecca has worked with AFYP since Fall 2012 teaching for after school, summer camp, and showcase programs. She has appeared in AFYP's touring shows A Penny Saved and The Adventures of Polly Pedestrian and directed the new professional production for Pre-K audiences, Swings and Slides. Some recent professional directing work includes Pippin (Monumental Theatre Company) We Found the Wild Things (Who What Where Theater Collective, where she is co-founder and co-artistic director), Dark Times at Grimesville High (Official Extension Week Selection, Capital Fringe Festival 2016), selections for the 2017 Source Festival, and Billy Shakes and the Big Screen (AFYP). Rebecca holds a BFA in Acting and Directing from George Mason University where she graduated as Most Outstanding in the Major and received the Students as Scholars Excellence Award for her undergraduate research work on Dido, Queen of Carthage. (rebeccawahls.com)