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Yuriy Kordonskiy, assistant professor of theater, will receive an award in April for directing the performance of The Heart of a Dog, performed at the National Theatre of Bucharest, Romania. Below, at left, is a scene from his Wesleyan production, Crime and Punishment, and at right, a scene from Sorry.
 
Posted 03.01.06

A Class Act: Assistant Professor of Theater Busy Teaching, Acting, Directing Local and International Productions

Yuriy Kordonskiy’s stage is not limited to Wesleyan. Kordonskiy is international.

Kordonskiy, is an assistant professor of theater, teaches acting and directing courses and has directed student productions such as M. Bulgakov’s A Cabal of Hypocrites, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and the Thornton Wilder’s The Long Christmas Dinner in the Center for the Arts.

But Kordonskiy also directs performances and leading workshops at top international theaters. In fact, his recent production, Bulgakov’s The Heart of a Dog, performed at the National Theatre of Bucharest, Romania received three nominations for the Award of Union of Romanian Theatre including The Best Production. The ceremony will take place on April 3.

So, how does he do it?

“I just love what I do, and I want to be working every minute,” he explains.

Internationally, Kordonskiy is somewhat of a celebrity. In fact, he holds “almost rock star status” in Romania, says Jack Carr, chair of the Theater Department and professor of theater.

As a performer and director, Kordonskiy has been involved in productions in nearly two-dozen countries. He has conducted workshops in Russia, Italy, Romania, Germany and Spain. He recently directed Disappearance and House of Bernarda Alba at the Maly Drama Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia; A Diary of a Madman at the West End Theatre, Gloucester, Mass; and Uncle Vanya, Sorry and The Marriage at the Bulandra Theatre, Bucharest, Romania. Uncle Vanya received five nominations for The Union of Romanian Theatres award (the Romanian equivalent of a TONY award) and received The Best Director prize.

Kordonskiy’s productions have won other awards in Romania, and garnered awards in Russia, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Great Britain. As a performer, Kordonskiy received two Golden Masques for the Best Production, the highest Russian theater award.

“Every theater director should be able to do what their actors do, but do it even better,” he says.

Though Kordonskiy is low key about the accolades he’s received, he does keep a production portfolio, thickened with performance photographs, newspaper clippings and flyers from the shows. Among them, features from the Washington Post, the Washington Times, St. Petersburg Theatre Journal, and even a three-page spread in the November 2005 Romanian issue of Elle Magazine. He’s also been featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and three shows on National Television in Bucharest, Romania.

The acclaim is even more impressive considering the stage was not Kordonskiy’s first calling. In fact, he has a master’s degree in math and worked as an engineer before turning to professional theater.

“I was walking to work one day and said, ‘My job is boring. I don’t want to do this anymore,’ and I turned around and went home,” he says.

But he did have a plan. During his years at Odessa State University in Ukraine, he participated in theater. His improve theater group, The Club of Cheerful and Witty Ones, competed against other student teams and was aired on a national television. He continued on in repertory theater after getting his master’s in mathematics.

Kordonskiy decided to apply to the State Academy of Theatre Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia. There were thousands of applicants. Kondonskiy was one of only nine students.

He entered the Academy’s “theater boot camp” and danced, acted, sang, directed and even practiced acrobatics six days a week while studying mythology, theory and history of arts, among other theoretical disciplines. He received his master’s in fine art ‘in acting in 1995 and in directing in 1997 under Russian director Lev Dodin.

Kordonskiy was hired as a resident director and actor with the Maly Drama Theatre – Theatre of Europe in St. Petersburg. He produced an original play and took original roles, one of which he played for several years and took him with Maly’s touring company through 20 countries.

In 2001, Kordonskiy moved to the United States and was hired to direct The Marriage, Dangerous Corner, The Little Prince and Antigone in the Classika Theatre in Arlington, Va. He also taught classes as an acting teacher and resident director.

A year later, he came to Wesleyan as an assistant professor of theater and began teaching classes in directing, acting and his self-invented class on the theater of Anton Chekhov, which is cross-listed with the College of Letters and Russian Studies Department. Kordonskiy also advises frosh, tutors senior-year honors projects, and serves as a guest lecturer for the theater history course on Russian theater.

Having a conservatory-trained artist at Wesleyan who brings his rich and intense background to liberal arts context is big advantage to the Theater Department, explains Carr.

“I admire the way he has adapted this conservatory, no compromise, approach to directing and teaching to our diverse, multi-focused students,” Carr says. “The students regard him as possibly the most demanding professor in the department, and at the same time they love working with him.”

Kordonskiy has opted for advanced acting, directing and lighting design classes to merge during class times to create a full production. This collaboration has led to increased enthusiasm by the students.

Mosah Fernandez-Goodman ‘04, associate director of the annual fund, says being a student under “Yuriy” was one of the best academic experiences he has had at Wesleyan.

“He was extremely well organized, insightful and patient, and his expectations were clear from the beginning of the project and he worked to develop each student's talent to their highest levels,” Fernandez-Goodman says. “I think working with him is something I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life.”

For Kordonskiy, teaching has become as much a passion as directing and acting.

“I’ve worked with some very creative, interesting students here at Wesleyan and in general, they seem to be very mature,” Kordonskiy says. “They bring a lot of joy to the classroom and when I learn from them, I feel younger.”

 
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor