I have a new post up at Nursing Clio about the Berkshire 2014 conference. Since the post was getting rather long, I had to condense my celebrity sighting story. Here’s the full version for others who might find it interesting:
The high point for me came on the last day of the conference on Sunday morning. I feel sympathy for those assigned the Sunday morning time slots: they are usually sparsely attended because people are in the process of leaving, have already left, or are sleeping in after the big Saturday night dance.
[Yes, there is a dance at the Berkshire Conference. As @Leah Wiener tweeted, “
#Berks2014 is where you dance with the people you cited for your comprehensive exams.”]
My roommate was chairing a Sunday session on “Exploring the History of Abortion Through Film,” so skipping the session would have been a major faux pas. Before the session started I made a trip to the washroom. This being a conference where female attendees far outnumbered male ones, there was a long line outside the women’s room (and yes some of us did invade the nearly empty men’s room). I engaged in small talk with the young woman ahead of me in line. I knew I recognized her from somewhere but couldn’t quite place her. Perhaps she was a former student or someone I met at another conference? Once I saw her name tag it all came together. Here’s a picture of her (via the conference website):
Yes, that’s right, I was in line with I’ve been a fan of hers for quite some time — I especially loved her luminous performance in “My Life Without Me.” Rather than being a total geek, I kept my cool and said, “oh you’re the filmmaker, that’s why you look so familiar.” She said modestly, “yes, that’s right, I’m trying to make a session on the history of abortion” — the very same session my friend was chairing! [BTW, this was not the first time I spotted a celebrity in the women’s room — back when I was in graduate school, I saw Natalie Merchant prior to a performance by 10,ooo Maniacs. That time I said nothing since she was about to go onstage and clearly did not want to be sidetracked by a fan!.]
Polley was at the conference for a screening and Q & A for her film “Stories We Tell.” Unfortunately I missed the screening in order to attend a friend’s session. According to the Berkshire Conference backchannel on Twitter (#Berks2014), the screening was a huge success. Here are some tweets from @BerksConference:
“Polley: because the film is about storytelling, I thought it was important to include my process as a storyteller.”
“Polley introduces the film, thanks us for applauding at news she’s adapting [Margaret] Atwood’s “’Alias Grace.’”
I can’t wait to see what Polley does with this book. Atwood is one of my favorite authors and Alias Grace is one of her best works. Based on what I’ve seen of her previous work, I’m certain Polley will do a better job of adapting that novel than Volker Schlöndorff did with “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Let’s hope Polley’s film version of Alias Grace is ready for the next Big Berks Conference.
Now, Polley could have been a prima donna: she easily could have made an appearance for her film screening and then left. Instead, she decided to be a real conference participant. She stayed for the whole thing and attended other sessions, including one on Sunday morning featuring another feminist filmmaker. Because that’s what feminists do. They support each others’ work. I think this is a sign that the Berkshire Conference has succeeded in its efforts to reach beyond the academy and appeal to a wider audience interested in women’s history.