Jani Toivola – Man of Love
Actor, author, and former politician Jani Toivola arrives to BUD buzzing with happiness and excitement. He’s getting ready for his one-man show’s premier in Koko Teatteri called “Rakkaudesta”, based on his same-called book published in 2021. We got a chance to ask a few questions – let’s hear what’s on the actor’s mind.
Jani, your Rakkaudesta -book was published last year, and now you’re just about to step on stage with a solo act based on the book. How are you?
—I’m happy, excited, and nervous, too. This show has been a dream of mine for several years, and it’s now coming true. It feels really good, but also wild to be soon on the stage alone.
What does this act mean to you?
—I’m curious by nature and often end up to different places and situations just by a chance. But I feel that in life, there are also some doors that carry a deeper meaning, and this is one of those. I’m about to step through a door I’ve been traveling towards for years.
For a long time, I’ve wanted to make my own solo performance. I’ve now stepped out from politics, and truly enjoy being back on stage and in theater. The show is based on my own book and I’ve brought in people outside of theater scene to create something visually new. For example, the director Emilia Hernesniemi is actually a documentary director, and the costume designer Claudia Cifu usually works with fashion and advertising.
The result is something I’ve been dreaming about, but it’s important to also remember that theater is an art of the moment. It becomes something different when the audience is present. As an actor, you need to let go of controlling what happens to the act once it’s out – what the audience actually reacts to and what touches them. You need to be brave enough to leave space for that.
What do you feel you want to give and share to people through this piece of art?
—Umm, that’s a hard one. I feel this act has elements designed to challenge and wake up people, to bring out new points of views to this time we’re in. But the biggest thing for me is to invite people to the theater to share a moment together. For myself, I’ve been missing shows that would sort of create a church without a church – a space, where your soul gets nourished. Those places don’t have to be religious.
Has your political career affected your new life direction?
—Yes, absolutely. I’m a different person after those 8 years in politics. And this act starts from the moment I close the doors of the parliament house for the one last time. In that moment, I realized I have maybe lost some quite essential parts of myself. I started making a journey back to myself, looking at my life, getting a feel of my own outlines again.
Also, when I was watching the art scene from outside, from the bubble of politics, I realized in a new way how important art actually is: at its best, art can verbalize society and its different phenomena in a way no other thing can. In politics, for example, even the vocabulary can be quite normative. You can’t use certain words, but in theater, you can use all of them. There are no rules.
Love. Do you experience it in a new way now when you’ve worked on it through art?
—Well, when you write about your own life, you could easily think that when you’re done writing, you’ve sort of handled the topic. But now when I’m bringing the book on stage, I’ve noticed there are still things I haven’t handled thoroughly yet, or that are frightening, or moving. Generally, I’m not one to tell people how things are. I think I have a need to ask questions and say things aloud, to be able to understand them myself, too.
But yea, love. Working with the topic of love has strengthened my idea of love having no rules. So that’s maybe the main message of my work. But what do you think about it, differs: who do you think you can love, how do you love yourself, what kind of being are you? Love having no rules is a very simple and liberating thought – you can come into the moment and situation exactly how you want to.
Has there been any bigger realization in your life that has brought you to this exact moment?
—I guess I’ve realized that the most meaningful moments in my life have happened in situations, where I have first thought that I can’t, or am not allowed, or don’t dare to do something. And as I’ve kept on going, walking through the initial fear and uncertainty, true turning points have appeared.
What has kept your creativity flowing these past years?
—In a weird way, I feel my creativity has been flowing quite nicely, but I can also feel it’s starting to be quite run out by now. So, I’m wishing for the world to open; in a way, my creativity “savings” are now used, and I the need to refill. I feel excited to get out, to new places with new people, random meetings, people-watching in cafes or restaurants, overhearing parts of those everyday conversations and so on.
On the other hand, these years have also been inspiring in their own way. There’s been new ways of creating connection and ways of being. In the beginning of lockdown, for example, a lot of people – from big stars to normal people – were doing these Instagram lives, sharing their rather private moments. It was inspiring to get to be part of that phenomena.
Jani ten years ago, in 2012 – any life tips for him?
—He should remember that there are no rules. Jani in 2012 was still trying so hard to do everything in his life in the right way – being scared that if someone doesn’t like him, he’s out of the game. I’d tell him that everyone doesn’t have to like what you’re doing; it doesn’t matter. You don’t lose your place, worth, or dignity if someone doesn’t like you.
What are your expectations for this year?
—Well, it’s easy to go towards the springtime. I’m waiting for more light, the feeling of having summer on my skin, and people. And I’m longing to travel again.
Any last words for our readers?
—I guess it’s related to these topics: now when the world opens and we can connect with each other again, let’s try to be open and vulnerable – to truly embrace connection.