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Getting To Know...

Through the acting classes Mary Lechter teaches, her influence can be seen across the Fairfax community. An actor by profession and George Mason University professor, Lechter's goal is to bring her love of the stage to area youth. She is this week's People Profile.

Number of years in the community: 11.

Family: Husband, Kevin Murray, his daughter, Lara Murray, 17, two dachshunds, Dell and Abby.

Education: Graduated from University of Maryland with a B.A. in theater; additional acting training at The Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory and Arena Stage; workshops and master classes in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Current job/primary occupation: Founder and president of A Class Act — Acting for Young People & Adults, Inc. (AFYP); adjunct faculty, theater department, George Mason University; professional actor.

Achievements: The creation and continued growth of AFYP. I started out teaching at The Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory and Kennedy Center, both in D.C., and when we moved to Fairfax, it was important to me to bring that caliber of training to the area. A huge turning point occurred in 1999, when the City of Fairfax Commission on the Arts "adopted" my program and became our sponsor, since they were looking for a way to provide acting classes for local residents. This took AFYP from one class at the fire station on University Drive to an offering of fall and winter/spring classes and our Summer Arts Camp, co-sponsored by GMU's Center for the Arts. I feel extremely fortunate to do the work that I do, meet actors of all ages and their families through AFYP, and appreciate knowing that in some way, our work is having an impact on them.

Activities/interests/hobbies: Reading, seeing movies, shopping!

Favorite local restaurant or place in the community: Artie's and Bombay Garden are two of our favorite places.

What are your community concerns? What are some ideas you have on ways to improve your community? More traffic lights needed at tricky intersections; making local residents more aware of the importance of the arts and encouraging them to patronize artistic endeavors.

What brought you here? We work at Mason, and were happy to find a great house close to the campus.

What community "hidden treasure" do you think more people should know about? Mason has its own resident professional theater company, Theater of the First Amendment, which produces new plays, rediscovered classics and family-friendly plays. It's right in our own backyard on the Fairfax campus! I would love for local residents to know that they can drive just a few minutes and see theater as good as they would see in the D.C. venues.

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you "grew up?" An actor, a teacher and an entrepreneur, and happily, now I'm all three!

Where do you see yourself in five years? I would love for AFYP to have its own building, so that we can continue to expand our programming and possibly move into producing plays. I have an extremely talented faculty and staff, and hope to be able to provide them with more and more opportunities to share their expertise, and to provide our students with more opportunities for learning and performing.

Personal goals? One benefit of all of the things that I do is that I am constantly in a position to learn and grow, and each of my "roles" informs the other. My goal is to continue to learn new things and reinforce current skills, and use those in my work and life. I also hope to learn more about my family's history and recapture the stories I was told as I was growing up.