Alum spotlight: John Marshall (BFA ’92)

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John Marshall, BFA ’92, Performance

John started taking dance classes at age three, and even now he’s “dancing” his way through group exercise classes. One of his college applications was the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, but his parents put the kibosh on that when they discovered there was no dorm and he’d have to live at the YMCA. Hold that thought: the “Y” would figure in his career back in Richmond.

Even though John is a Richmond native and was involved in theatre at Freeman High, his family rarely ventured downtown, so “going to VCU was like going to another city. It was all brand new to me.”

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Like many of his fellow classmates, “We lived in PAC. Lay around on the floor waiting for our next class.” John was also cast in two mainstage productions (Hunting Cockroaches and The Merry Wives of Windsor), as well as two graduate shows (The Knight from Olmedo and Iphigenia at Aulis). He was also very proud to get an A in Dr. Parker’s Theatre History class!

v c u arts students performing on stage

He made the traditional move to NYC in 1994, but found it very expensive and very cold, so he came back home. After graduating he worked in several local theatres including Richmond Triangle Players and was in The Complete works of Shakespeare…Abridged directed by Donna Coghill (BFA ’90 and MFA ’94).

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John with fellow grads Joy Bleecker Walsh, Jason Butler Harner, and Janine Russo 

While still in school, John began to work out at Main St. Nautilus and gravitated toward the aerobics classes. After he moved back to Richmond, he started classes at the Tuckahoe YMCA and was approached to teach. It was an ideal gig because he could work the classes, while still acting in local shows.

man smiling in gym

By the time he got involved with American Family Fitness in the late ‘90s, theatre was beginning to take a back seat. In 2001, he was named Fitness Director, so “with my schedule I couldn’t audition.”

John went back to the “Y” for a brief stint, but didn’t enjoy managing a large staff. That led him to an opportunity to take over a personal studio: Pump Custom Fitness on Patterson Avenue.  “I prefer to work with clients in a small facility.” Of course, it was closed during the original COVID lockdown and John determined that it wasn’t realistic to bring it back, so he turned it over to a new owner.

man performing plank

“Ironically, 2020 was the year I planned to get back into theatre. I had new headshots and was looking for auditions, when COVID hit.” In the interim, he’s become the CAD designer for his husband, Steven O’York’s business, Closets of Virginia. He’s also still taking dance classes at Regency Dance Academy and his first performance with them was the first time that Steven had ever seen him on stage. In another VCU parallel, Tracy Crouch, who taught him tap at VCU was the founder of the Academy.

Obviously, the performance training from VCU helped John in fitness, “You’re in front of 5 to 60 people and it’s a performance.” He also credits Gary Hopper with helping him “be prepared for any role. Don’t go in and wing it, be prepared.”

man in gym

Compiled by Liz Hopper (Emeritus Faculty) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the November 2020 Theatre Alumni Newsletter