Dan Yonah Ben-Dror Marshall probably isn’t aware of it, but he’s the type of person who is good at making others feel inadequate. The mechanical engineer is, on the side, a SAG-AFTRA actor, martial arts performer-competitor, dancer, choreographer, stuntman, singer, volunteer cantor, and multi-linguist. Marshall is a media producer for Cengage Learning publishing company, and he’s formed a team that is working on plans to develop a commercial public space that will include businesses, residences and a community arts center to be funded by matching grants.
He hopes his plans for this complex – to be known as the Boston Community Center for the Arts – will combine non-profits and artists working together to create a family-oriented, community cultural center that would be open seven days a week.
Marshall also volunteers as a cantor, chanting in a variety of genres based in traditional Eastern European and Sephardic dialects. In the martial arts, he’s won awards in traditional and contemporary Chinese Kung Fu. He wants us to know, though, that he competed in form, not fighting.
Marshall, who lives in Brookline with his wife, Shira, and six-month-old daughter Adina, is well-known in the area. In the past, he was frequently in the public eye, performing public service and more, as president and executive artistic director of non-profit Brookline Community Center for the Arts, (BCCA), at Coolidge Corner. He co-produced classes, workshops and events in dance, music and theater, and promoted them in his Brookline venue.
He currently hopes to re-establish a long-term, well-rounded community arts agenda that will be accessible to a wide spectrum of people. Marshall also worked with underprivileged and incarcerated youths, inspiring them through music, movement and creativity. Unfortunately, he was forced to cease operations at the BCCA in 2005, because the building was sold.
For the past 14 years, Marshall also organized events, featuring a show for senior citizens called “You and Broadway!” starring performers ages 70-100, which he still helms nine to ten times a year. “It’s a lifeline for seniors,” he said.
You may recognize the handsome, agile Marshall for other reasons. Born and raised in Jerusalem, he came here at age fifteen-and-a-half to finish high school. He’s performed stunt work on feature films, TV, Internet, and on-stage productions, mostly agility and stage fighting, including fight scenes, with weapons, involving martial arts. “Stage fighting is different than on film. It must look realistic in film, and requires multiple takes. On stage, you do it once,” he said.
He also performed in several theatrical productions, including “Aida,” the opera, “Guys and Dolls,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and more recently, he and Shira choreographed and performed in the film, “The Finest Hours’” opening scene featuring a Viennese folkloric waltz for which the couple created cutting-edge choreography.
He continues to combine engineering with artistry, designing costumes, staging, but also big development projects, especially non-profit, utilizing his engineering and design skills to optimize a space, yet make it affordable. All of his work, whether engineering based or more on the creative side, have a common theme for Marshall. “It must be elegant and efficient, but economic as well, not just for show,” he said. ”Boston is amazing when it comes to theaters and performance space. There are gems. You just have to find them – and share space.”
Besides working at Cengage, Marshall is excited about performing in and choreographing Acton’s Theatre III’s upcoming production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” where he’ll portray poor, young tailor, Motel. He’s also creating original folkloric choreography, from European, Georgian, gypsy, Chassidic, and flamenco dance styles, which will be performed three weekends in April. ”I’m very excited. It’s a good way for me to get back in shape,” he said.
In 1998, he choreographed MIT’s Theater Guild production of “Fiddler,” creating more authentic dances, including the wedding bottle dance, infusing the cultural dance of traditional Jewish and European styles, not the Broadway rendition.