There was a time when Maya Posey thought she might become a lawyer. That all changed in 9th grade.
“A show came to my school. They were singing and dancing. I saw people that looked like me doing things in the style I would do it,” Maya recalled. When she went home, “I said to my mother, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
Since the high school Maya was attending had no drama classes or activities, Maya and her mom set out to find one in their Birmingham, Ala., area. They did, and Maya spent the next three years preparing for a career in the performing arts.
One of the most valuable tools that performing arts school, Shades Valley Theatre Academy, taught her, said Maya, is the art of professionalism. Maya recalls one particular teacher’s pedagogical approach.
“From the moment we [students] got there, he never treated us like we were in high school,” said Maya. “He treated us as if we were professionals.
“I appreciate that so much,” Maya said. “The skills we learned in 11th and 12th grade are the skills I use today. They help me to remain professional.”
Transferring to a performing arts high school allowed Maya to channel talents that had emerged years ago.
“I grew up singing in church. And I was always in talent shows,” she said. “I would perform all the time – me by myself on the porch with my imaginary friends. I grew up doing theater without even knowing I was doing theater.”
Another element of growing up that affected Maya’s career choice was watching “Showtime at the Apollo” on television.
“In Alabama, that was my favorite show,” said Maya, remembering how she and friends would re-enact performers’ singing and dance routines.
Just months after graduating from the University of Alabama, where Maya held a double major in criminal justice/pre-law and theater, she came to New York in 2013 to pursue her acting career. Among her stage and screen inspirations are Angela Bassett, Sanaa Lathan and Phylicia Rashad. Playwrights she admires include Katori Hall and Suzan-Lori Parks.
“I really like their work. I’m inspired by their work,” said Maya, adding, “I tend to lean more towards straight acting” than musicals.
Maya plays the role of June, a teenager displeased with the circumstances surrounding her, in the Oct. 22 production of “Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou.” It is a role that was especially created for Maya for the upcoming performance.
“Maya was so impressive during her audition, I knew I wanted to have her in the cast,” said Fannie Lou Musical creator Felicia Hunter. “She kind of fell between the cracks as far as roles we had available was concerned, though. She was a bit young for the part for which she had submitted.”
That part went to another actress, and Felicia asked Maya if she wouldn’t mind accepting a role in the ensemble.
“I really wanted her to be part of the cast,” said Felicia. “I’m so glad she accepted the ensemble role, because lo and behold, a role opened up after auditions were completed.”
One of the cast members dropped out of a lead role. That opened the door for Maya – kind of.
“Similar to the role that went to the other actress, this role wasn’t a good fit either, because Maya was the wrong gender for it,” Felicia said. “I knew that she would be great in the part, though. Then I had the idea of just changing the gender, just for this Oct. 22 performance so Maya could fill the role. I explained the situation to Maya, and she agreed to give it a try. She is terrific in the part.”
Since the character has several scenes, ultimately what ended up happening is that the role’s dialogue is divided between Maya and another, equally good, actor – who also started out as an ensemble player.
“People who don’t know would have absolutely no idea how things were altered,” said Felicia. “And I think people who’ve seen ‘Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou’ before would be absolutely delighted to see Maya perform as June. She’s just wonderful in the role.”
Maya said she was blown away by the talents of her fellow cast members after their first gathering, a table read in late September.
“I think everybody in the cast is amazingly talented. They’re so brilliant,” said Maya, adding that she initially auditioned for “Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou” because “I like to do work that has meaning. Works about people who are motivating others, and are inspired to do something great.
“Any time,” said Maya, “that there’s a performance of a work of art that has a chance to motivate and the capacity to change things, I want to be a part of it.”