Artist Spotlight: Maya Cohen

Maya Cohen is an Israeli singer and actor based in NYC, trained in the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and currently HB Studio. After years of being focused on a career as an opera singer, her passion for musical theatre inspired her to move to New York in 2018. With her exceptional vocal qualities and background in both classical singing and musical theatre, she enjoys working on an array of styles, and performing crossover material.

Maya Cohen performs “The Girl in 14G” by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan

What or who inspired you to want to be an artist?
Music in general and singing specifically has always been my coping mechanism and the way in which I best express myself. It’s always been bigger than me, it was only later in life that I discovered the skill of storytelling. My main aspiration now is to tell stories in a way that resonates with people to a place of genuine empathy/catharsis. It’s a full circle, in a way, that I hope to be for others as other creators have been for me.

What was your creative journey that has brought you to where you are today?
I think having my eyes and ears “open” from a young age to various genres and creators is a big factor in how I approach theatre/musical theatre. Also, I’ve always been a people watcher, and having had the chance to travel the world and experience a multitude of different cultures and languages, I was able to observe and mimic many types of mannerisms, tonation and articulation in speech and different physicalities. All this accompanied me throughout my journey with opera, musical theatre, and other musical styles. When I came to New York, I learned to implement it in straight acting as well.

Photo by Ofer Callaf

What’s on your mind these days?
COVID-19 threw me through a loop in the sense that my prior practicing regiment didn’t seem to “fit” anymore. Along with hundreds of thousands of people, I got the wind knocked out of my sails in the beginning of 2020. I’m working on rebuilding my relationship with my voice and body and on how I approach material with the sudden change of pace. It has allowed me to delve deeper and explore more, whilst pre-COVID, everything was on a tight and goal-oriented schedule.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your creative life and your relationship to your work?
My craft is in live theatre for the most part, which suffered a great deal during this time. I think the most significant obstacle is trying to translate something that is made for a house of hundreds, if not thousands, to an entirely different medium that requires different techniques and focuses. Using a “stage voice”, utilizing the space, degrees of facial expressions and other physicalities that fit the genre I spent my entire life focusing on – all these need to be recalculated and formed into something that not only reads un-awkwardly, but also shows off the work to the best of my abilities.

This, as well as the sudden necessity to become your own director, producer, lighting and camera specialist, and editor, is daunting at times. Also, so much of the work is focused on the most important person on stage, aka your partner. Social distancing has removed that from the equation, and eye contact is impossible through screens.

Photo by Mike Petrie Jr.

What project are you working on now?
At the moment I’m expanding my repertoire, experimenting with new styles, and learning how to properly work within the confines of this new reality. Self-tapes and online performances are still the bulk of the industry at the moment, and are probably going to be a constant from now on.

What do you need as an artist today?
I really miss the sense of community and that feeling when you’re thriving off of your partners artistically. The passionate discussions about material with fellow creators and how it promotes personal and professional growth, are inherent to this artform. I think what we all need today is for people to keep safe, wear their masks, and get vaccinated when and if they can, so we can get back to the closeness that allows us to thrive as artists and humans.