From the History Files

Bechdel and Eustis in Conversation

This year’s Elizabeth Drew Memorial Lecture speakers needed no introduction to the standing-room-only crowd that filled Bread Loaf’s Little Theater at our Vermont campus. Back in March, when we announced that the Drew would consist of a conversation between graphic novelist Alison Bechdel and Oskar Eustis, Bread Loaf faculty member and artistic director of New York City’s Public Theater, Bread Loaf’s Facebook community went wild—more than 11,500 of our friends and followers responded enthusiastically.

The Drew conversation focused primarily on Bechdel’s work and development as an artist, as well as the Public Theater’s recasting of her graphic memoir Fun Home as a play (now on Broadway). The event generated powerful responses, from audience members who described the sense of solidarity that Bechdel’s groundbreaking comics provided, to those who found kinship in Bechdel’s literary shaping of identity, to those who themselves confront the challenges of representing memory in autobiographical writing. Bechdel, it seemed, was already one of us.

Yet she described the uncanny sensation caused by the wider resonance of her graphic novels: “It’s like becoming part of the mainstream in a bizarre way that I never, ever felt. . . . I’ve spent so much of my life sort of pounding on the door to be let into the mainstream, to have someone suddenly yank the door open and I’m flying into the room—I feel like I haven’t gotten my balance.”

Bechdel was quick to add that she’s not complaining: “People were still reeling from the idea that you could have a lesbian character who was also everywoman—and everyman—and was speaking for all of us, not just speaking for lesbians, and that’s . . . sort of a seismic cultural event that I think Fun Home has succeeded at.”

To access the archived webcast of the 2016 Elizabeth Drew Memorial Lecture with Alison Bechdel and Oskar Eustis, please visit https://vimeo.com/middmedia/review/172955785/d53a9184b1