Camille Pavlenko’s new play places in finals of international competition


You may recognize Lethbridge actress Camille Pavlenko from her performances with Shakespeare in the Park, at Casa, doing a movement production for the Lt. Governors Ceremonies, or at the U of L and more recently with New West Theatre’s  presentation of “Luke’s Lunchbox.” Camille Pavlenko made the Top 11 finalists in the “Woodward International Playwriting Prize” competition. with her new play “These Moments of Shine: A Dokumentary.” Photo by Richard Amery

Her tall, lithe form, endless energy and impish grin are usually making you laugh. But she shows here more serious, thoughtful side in her new play, “These Moments of Shine: A Dokumentary.” It is among the top 11 finalists out of 300  entries from all over the world in the University of New Hampshire‘s “Woodward International Playwriting Prize” competition.

“It was very exciting and surprising because the other finalists are people whose plays I’ve read,” said Pavlenko, noting the winner will be announced at the end of January. She noted there is a production aspect to the top prize as well as cash and travelling expenses to go to the University of New Hampshire for workshopping and the mentorship of a dramaturge.

She was inspired to write “These Moments of Shine: A Dokumentary,” after watching Werner Herzog’s documentary “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga.”
“It’s about four Siberian women  trying to make a documentary about themselves,” she said of her play.

“It was inspired by Werner Herzog’s documentary “ Happy People: A Year in the Taiga” about these Siberian trappers who have all of these traditional ways of trapping and making their own stuff, though they also have modern things like snowmobiles. I enjoyed it, but I asked myself ‘where are the women in it,’” she continued, adding she decided to write a play from the female perspective.

“So it’s fictional, but it is based on these people and their lives,” she added.
“And a lot of places in Canada look like Siberia. There’s similar landscape. it was winter when I started writing it,” she said.
It is also loosely inspired by her own family, who come from the Ukraine.
“I did a lot of research. But my grandmother, my Baba’s family is from the Ukraine, so she had a lot of stories. So I learned a lot from her,” she continued.

Her lay features four women who represent the four seasons, from a young, 16-year-old girl who represents spring to a 101-year old woman representing winter.
“They each have solo sections talking about their lives, but there are also a lot of behind the scenes activity as they discuss how they are going to make their film and what the other villages are affected by the film,” she said,noting the lay runs 75 minutes.


 Pavlenko wants to perform the play in Lethbridge, however there is still a lot of work to be done before that happens.

“ I’d like to stage a reading of it so I can hear the voices reading it and maybe write another draft before I even think of it,” she said.

“Even though  it seems really specific— there are four specific characters , they are women and  they are doing a specific documentary, there is a lot in it that appeals to the Canadian experience,” she said.
“ And though it would probably be classified as a drama, there are a few funny parts in it,” she said.

 She started writing plays at the University of Lethbridge after enrolling in Ron Chambers’ playwriting class with a friend.

“I didn’t want to at first, because it seemed like a lot of work. Then my friend dropped out without telling me, so I thought I might as well do the class, which got me thinking about all of the ideas I could write about,” Pavlenko related, noting one of the plays she wrote was in the Playgoers of Lethbridge presented One Act Play Competition.

She decided to enter the Woodward International Playwriting Prize after finding it on the website, which includes all the details needed including play length, genre, location, character numbers and royalty requirements.

After finishing “Luke‘s Lunchbox” with New West theatre, Pavlenko’s next project will be  a puppetry show in Calgary, March 17-18.

 A version of this story appears in the Jan. 4, 2017 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times/ Shopper
— By Richard Amery, L.A. beat Editor