|Playing It Right|
Solanke has taught scriptwriting in London, Lagos and Los Angeles, and has also written radio scripts for the BBC.
A nominee for Best New Play 2012 for ‘Pandora's Box’ by the Off West End Theatre Awards, she is also the winner of the Best Playwright 2012, Nigerian Entertainment and Lifestyle Awards and winner of the Best Playwright 2011, African Film Awards. Her company, Spora Stories, tells the dynamic stories of the African diaspora.
ReConnect Africa spoke to Ade Solanke about her career and the influence of her Nigerian heritage on her work.
ReConnect Africa:(RCA) Congratulations on the success of ‘Pandora’s Box’. What inspired you to write the play?
Ade Solanke: Thank you! I'm still on a high from the fantastic reception it's had. We were nominated for Best New Play in the Off West End Theatre Awards and Best Playwright in the Nigerian Entertainment and Lifestyle Awards. I keep pinching myself. People keep asking me, 'Ade, when is it coming back?' That's so nice of them. It's a really nice feeling to know your work has touched people so deeply.
I think it's because the play is entertaining and it deals with an issue that's so close to peoples' hearts: helping diaspora children achieve their full potential. In fact, what inspired me to write the play was seeing so many friends struggle with that very issue, and seeing kids at risk in the UK transformed after a stint in Africa! What do they get there that they're not getting here? That's the question I asked myself, so I just designed the story around that situation, and made the main character a mother who gets cold feet about leaving her son behind in Nigeria.
RCA: When did you realize that playwriting was an area in which you could excel?
Ade Solanke: Well, again, thank you! I certainly aim for excellence and work hard at writing, so hopefully I'm getting there! But it's not work – it never is when you love what you're doing. I've always been a writer; I think it's what I'm born to do. I always knew I'd be a writer – I have an instinct for how arranging words can create specific effects.
My first job was as a journalist with Concord Weekly, a Nigerian newsmagazine published from London, then I started my own writing and research service and won an award as 'London's Top Youth Entrepreneur.' After that, I went to the University of Southern California Film and TV school and did an MFA in Screenwriting. The emphasis was on storytelling and connecting with the audience and that was the kind of work I wanted to make. It was a wonderful adventure overall. I worked in Hollywood and got an insight into the African-American experience. Made some great friends too, so did my son.