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.
A Class Act: Assistant Professor of Theater Busy Teaching, Acting,
Directing Local and International Productions
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
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
“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.”
Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection