A creator’s dream set in motion
7 April 2020
Struggling to make ends meet, Evangeline Riddiford Graham had almost given up on her studies at the New School in New York.
However, just in the nick of time, she was awarded the Anne Reid Memorial Trust Scholarship, which allowed her to continue her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.
“I had been moving through New York City hunched like a human question mark: How? How will I keep writing, making, researching, learning here? How will I finish the work that I am already seeing recognition for, but still have far to travel with? The Anne Reid Memorial Trust Scholarship offers me the answer and a message of encouragement: This is how. Keep going.”
The scholarship was established in 2002 to commemorate Anne Reid, who studied and taught at the University of Canterbury and the National University of Singapore. The scholarship’s purpose is to assist a graduate student from either the University of Canterbury or the University of Auckland to study art history, English literature, music or fine arts overseas.
Around 30 graduates have been able to pursue international careers thanks to this generous scholarship.
Evangeline, who is in her final semester, says The New School has been an enriching experience.
“The generosity of the Anne Reid Memorial Trust has made the last year one of the happiest and most productive of my life.
“Thanks to the support of the scholarship, I’ve not only been able to study at The New School, I’ve been able to throw myself into my studies - and everything this school and this city has had to offer - with energy, determination, and a confidence I didn’t know I had.”
She says living in the Big Apple is a fantastic way to keep her creativity flowing.
“I love New York City and I find fresh inspiration and encounter new ideas here every day - that’s before I even step foot inside a classroom.
“There’s a quote from the playwright John Guare that New York City is like Florence in the 16th century: “a genius on every corner.” It feels true - the talent, creativity, and yes, genius of New Yorkers is dazzling and it’s everywhere.”
Evangeline is working on a poetry manuscript investigating the “infinite variety” of Cleopatra VII, both the woman and the myth; a novella featuring a society of anthropomorphic rats and their theory of hospitality-as-performance-art; and a cycle of poems exploring the contradictions of the contemporary female politician.
“I’m fascinated by personal mythologies - the stories we tell about ourselves, the way we make up and perform a persona. It’s a theme that runs throughout my work, often taking the form of theatrical identity tropes: the diva, the outsider, the chorus. I am interested in testing the boundaries of these roles, which can both restrict their performer’s identity and create space for deviant self-invention and overlap - the drag act, the female pharaoh, the animal actor, the trickster narrator.
“Thanks to the pressure cooker of the thesis deadline, my mind has been burring with new ideas, plot lines, and phrases these last few months. I’ve learnt, like many New Yorkers, to take urgent notes on my phone if I’m standing in the middle of a crowded subway car when a thought occurs to me and weirdly, inspiration often does come then, when I’m sardined. The projects are happy and growing, which means I’m busy and happy too.”
The scholarship has opened the door to experiences Evangeline wouldn’t have had otherwise, which she is extremely grateful for.
“I am so grateful to the trust and the University of Auckland for making this time possible. I have treasured it. I hope many more University of Auckland students get to experience a challenge and an opportunity like this one.”