Popular Day Camp Nurtures Future Actors

Posted: August 22, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

When most people think of summer camps, they imagine crafts and recreation, not young people already pursuing their future professional goals. But that’s the type of camper you are likely to find at A Class Act – Acting for Young People camp (AFYP).

Celebrating its fifth year at Mason, A Class Act brings together kids ages 5 to 17 for several weeks each summer to dabble in theater arts. The camp sessions are for aspiring performers as well as those just interested in trying something new.

AFYP was founded by professional actress and teacher Mary Lechter. Earlier in her career, Lechter taught acting to young people as part of a program at the Kennedy Center. She wanted to bring that level of professional training to Northern Virginia.

Each year, she gathers a staff of working theater professionals – actors, videographers, playwrights and more – to teach workshops. This year, campers took classes in improvisation, playwriting, musical theater and voice, and they had the opportunity to shoot a commercial and see themselves on screen. Each Wednesday, students focused on special skills and tried their hand at stage combat, circus skills, stage makeup and auditioning, among others.

What began as a small program in the City of Fairfax has grown into one of the most popular day camps in the region. Lechter and her 25-plus staff members taught more than 600 young people over the course of five weeks this summer. Co-sponsored by the City of Fairfax Commission on the Arts and Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts and Theater of the First Amendment, the camp was recently a finalist for Best Day Camp in Washington Families magazine.

“I enjoy coming each year and interacting with my friends, but the best part is getting to do what I love – acting,” says Maya Davis, a sixth-grader at White Oak Elementary who returned this summer for her third year with AFYP. At the age of 10, Davis already has a lot of acting experience under her belt and wants one day to be a film actress.

While many of the students have some kind of acting aspirations, there are other benefits to the theater camp. Lechter says she has been satisfied with the overall feedback from parents and students.

“I am always pleased to hear from the parents that [the children] are doing better in school, that they are more confident [after attending the camp], whether or not they want a life in the arts,” she says. “What’s important is that they are having fun and growing as young people.”

In addition to the summer camp program, Lechter and her staff offer acting training for young people throughout the year. For more information, visit the AFYP web site.

Class Act group
Students in this summer’s A Class Act camp

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