The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department mourns the passing of Columbia College alum David Yondorf ’08, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Acting and a longtime teacher in the Theatre Department’s Stage Combat Minor. Yondorf passed away May 17, 2023, after a short battle with oral cancer. He was 43. Yondorf was laid to rest in a private family ceremony on May 19, 2023. A celebration of his life is being planned, and information will be announced in the near future.
“David began his training in stage combat at Columbia College Chicago in 1998,” says Columbia College faculty member David Woolley, coordinator of the Theatre Department’s Stage Combat program. “He came to us as a second-degree blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do wanting actor training. He took to the art of fake fighting with delight. . . . He started teaching at the High School Institute at Columbia College in 2005, [and] joined our adjunct faculty in 2010. . . . He was with us [at Columbia] teaching up until midterms of this year. . . . His love for his students, his art form and his audience were unparalleled. We have lost an outstanding man too early.”
“David was the perfect example of what it is to be an adjunct teacher at Columbia,” adds Susan Padveen, Interim Allen and Lynn Turner Chair of the Theatre Department. “He graduated from the department, had a robust professional career that he brought back to the classroom, and touched the lives of many of our students in the skills that he shared and as a caring human being. I worked with David when he was a student actor on a production of Othello, as a co-teacher in the Summer High School Institute, and as a colleague in the department. His former students, friends and collaborators will miss his crazy smile and talent.”
A Certified Teacher of Stage Combat with the Society of American Fight Directors since 2010, Yondorf was Violence Design Artist-in-Residence at Chicago’s City Lit Theatre Company since 2018. At City Lit he was the stage combat and violence director for such productions as Noel Coward’s Private Lives; Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo; a world-premiere adaptation by City Lit artistic director and former Columbia College Theatre Department faculty member Terry McCabe of the classic Spanish drama Fuente Ovejuna; the Kingsley Day–Philip LaZebnik musical State Street, directed by former Columbia College Theatre Department chair Sheldon Patinkin; adaptations of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein and Shirley Jackson’s novel The Sundial; and J.M. Synge’s classic Irish comedy The Playboy of the Western World, which was his last production at City Lit. He also staged combat scenes for productions by the Side Project, Polarity Ensemble Theatre, and the Promethean Theatre Ensemble in Chicago.
“Across my 20 years in professional theatre, there are few artists I worked with more frequently than David Yondorf,” said Brian Pastor, who directed City Lit’s production of Playboy of the Western World, in a statement on Facebook. “A stage combat veteran, educator, and vocalist, David had some of the most unique perspectives and experiences. I just worked with him last summer on . . . a show that required a good deal of staged violence, including a barroom brawl. As always, he was focused, creative, and took time and care with his instruction. I will miss collaborating with him. I will miss his friendly, eager presence in the rehearsal room. I will miss the times he showed faith in me that I didn’t have in myself. RIP, David. You are gone way too soon.”
Besides his work as a stage combat artist, Yondorf, a bass-baritone vocalist, was, since 2003, a member of Bounding Main, an a capella vocal ensemble devoted to sea shanties. “It is with broken hearts that we share that David Yondorf lost his battle with cancer this morning. David passed away surrounded by waves of love from his Bounding Main family,” said a statement posted on Bounding Main’s Facebook page. “We were honored to spend the last 20 years creating music and memories with ‘our David.’ We spent countless hours around the table rehearsing and telling stories. We discussed every topic under the sun, some serious and some not, and we learned how David experienced the world. We sat scrunched up together in cars, vans, trains, planes, and boats, as we traveled to perform throughout the Midwest, and internationally in Canada, France, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, and the UK. We reveled in the adventures of live musical performances (it’s either a good show or a good story!) and laughed and giggled at one another during shows too numerous to count. We became a family in a way we could never have anticipated when we met for that first time on a cold day in January 2003. We will keep David close to us as we learn how to do this without him. Whenever we see a movie, we’ll think of how David would have reviewed the film. We’ll order bacon recalling that it should be ‘extra crispy.’ We’ll salute whenever any of us says the word ‘general’ in any context, at any time. . . . Friends and fans will recall David’s smooth baritone whenever they enjoy our videos and CD recordings. David will continue to be a member of Bounding Main. Always. . . . Fair winds, dear friend.”