Texas-born actress Maya Koshaba discusses diversity in the entertainment industry and her performance at the Act One: One Act Festival.

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By Elle Bent, Photos by Sergio Garcia

As the lights dim in the Secret Theatre in New York City, audiences may have caught a glimpse of Texan-born actress Maya Koshaba as she performed in the Act One: One Act Play Festival this month.

Born and raised in an oil town in the heart of West Texas, Maya Koshaba was never really exposed to the arts. In her journey to becoming an actress, Koshaba says it was acting that found her.

“Looking back on my younger self, I was always an actor,” she says. “Although I didn’t have a word for it back then or understand it at the time, or even believe it, I was an actor in the truest sense of the word. As a young girl, performing lived in my heart and flowed through my entire being.”

Storytelling is a driving inspiration for Koshaba, and she began pursuing acting professionally in her 20s. She moved to New York, where she learned the foundation of many acting methods. It wasn’t until the pandemic that she came back to Texas, arriving in Austin where she continued to act.

Entertainment’s Double Standard

But the entertainment industry is not easy. As a woman, and especially as a woman of color, Koshaba faces a myriad of challenges. Actresses are often limited in their roles based upon their age, where men are often given more leeway when held to less strict beauty standards.

“I see us losing our uniqueness, what sets us apart and makes us special,” she says. “This overvaluation of physicality and unrealistic beauty standards forces us to neglect our spiritual selves and personal growth. Our physical beauty is the least interesting thing about us; I want to see that recognized more.”

As someone who didn’t often see herself on the screen when she was young, Koshaba is still hopeful for more changes in the industry as time goes on. “More and more, we see and feel the industry shifting. That gives me great hope,” she says. “More roles are going to women and people of color. I want to see more films and TV shows that promote forward, inclusive and inspirational content. Content that touches the entire globe.”

Maya Koshaba in One Act

Most recently, Koshaba performed at the Secret Theatre’s The Act One: One Act Play Festival in Dining for One, written by Brian Doyle and directed by Adriana Alter. Historically taking place in New York, the festival and hasn’t been back since before the pandemic two years ago. The festival showcases over 50 plays from playwrights. Each play performs in front of an audience four times over four weeks in a competition-style. “Dining for One” was selected for the semifinals.

“It is quite an emotional and humbling experience being on stage again after a couple of years away from everyone,” she says. “As difficult as the pandemic was, it united us. That transferred to the stage, as I felt the energy from the audience in a way I never have before. More intimate, intentional and raw.”

A Twist of Fate

As an actress who has worked on a variety of roles in film, television and theater, Koshaba describes the energy she feels from live theater; it’s a reminder that she is there to serve the story, character and the audience.

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“I’ve always believed that stage work is essential to an actor’s growth, which is why I’ve always ensured that I kept doing stage work along with my film and TV work,” she says. “On the stage, you can’t hide. You are left with yourself and your instincts.”

As the festival wraps in New York, Koshaba has plans for filming a new project in the heart of Austin. “There is something about this city and the people that has captured my soul,” she says. “I had a calling to move here during the pandemic when New York City completely shut down. I was on one of the last flights from JFK to AUS before travel was temporarily blocked. I’m so grateful for that twist of fate. I have so much more to accomplish and amazing stories to tell about that transformative period in my life. I want to bring it to the screen and share it with the world.”

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