How 33 became our 20th Production


How did 33 Variations become our 20th production? Why did we chose this script to represent such an important milestone in our creative journey? How is it possible that Brave New Productions is now one month away from premiering a Tony-Award winning Broadway show?

Those are good questions that quickly become great questions when you take into consideration the fact that Brave New Productions was born to present a single play at the Fringe Festival over a decade ago. Back then, we had an idea of what the company was and what we wanted to do. We couldn’t articulate it properly at the beginning but our passion lead us to produce more projects.
Initially all of our shows were written in-house and entirely of our own design but in 2010, everything changed. In 2010, as bullying issues and gay rights returned to centre stage, I pushed the company to bring Moises Kauffmans “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” to Montreal. It was an undertaking unlike anything we’d done before. Our first time licensing a show, it was also our first time focusing on such heavy content. In fact, the subject matter was so drastically different many people asked me how it fit our company. At the time, I didn’t know – all I knew was that this particular story hadn’t been shared with a Montreal audience and I was extremely motivated to share it.
The doors had been open. Suddenly, knowing that we didn’t have to always tell our own original stories, I discovered a world of content that had never before been played in our city. Of course, importing from other countries bring with it its own unique challenges, namely funding. Most funding goes towards developing Canadian content (and rightly so) which has made our challenge of bringing international scripts to Montreal a challenge. But we’re used to challenges. It’s my experience that they help us grow.
I actually read the script for 33 Variations at the same time as Laramie. In fact, I tried to convince a producer to invest in it but instead we went on to develop Callistro The Great. Without the budget, Emma (who had just become the company’s artistic director) and I had to shelve the project (thinking that someone else would bring it to town before we’d ever have the chance) but looking back now I realize that there were more steps to take before we could reach 33. From Callistro on, each project has challenged us in a different way and our group has grown to encompass such a wide variety of talents.
Last summer, as we discussed which shows would make up our experimental first season, I took 33 off the shelf again. No one had shared the story yet and though still a mighty challenge to pull off and pull off well, the time felt right to test the limits of what our team can do.
If challenges help us grow, then 33 Variations represent the single biggest mountain we’ve had to climb. Live music (including singing), challenging text, movement, meaning, cost, set – every person in our cast and crew is being pushed to the limit of our creative abilities. It’s exciting and terrifying and while I care about how it turns out, I care more about the incredible work we’re doing. I’m constantly moved to tears at what’s gone into this show and we’re only now entering the real crunch time.
When the show opens next month, the story of Brave New Productions reaches a celebration of sorts. It’s not that we’ve become big enough to do a Broadway show that’s anything worth celebrating. It’s that we have the team, talent, imagination and confidence to be inspired by any story and can hopefully meet the challenge of telling it well. We can finally articulate why this group has come together.
Our mission has become to create great entertainment — and that can take on many forms. From developing original content to exposing our audiences to international material, the one constant between all of our projects is this; we want to tell stories that inspire us personally. Inspire us to laugh. Inspire us to cry. To think. To change.

Inspiration can take on many forms and the possibilities are endless. We want to tell those stories in unique and engaging ways. We believe the secret to our success comes from the talent, dedication and vision of our production team and company members. Our success isn’t measure by ticket sales or reviews, but by pride in the work we do and joy from the relationships we build.

33 Poster

Sean and The Golden Burrito – A Magical Christmas Tale!


image“Gather round everyone, have a seat.” Donald said. It was a holiday party with a few familiar faces. Coco was there wearing nothing but a diamond covered lingerie set and a trench coat. Santi was drunk on the balcony trying some new stand-up to an audience of dead plants that were covered in snow. They weren’t laughing but Santi said they responded better than the audiences in New York. When Donald called for the group to gather, they all sat down around him, cross-legged on the floor. Except for Marc. Cuz he can be stubborn –  so he stood. On one leg. With the other leg up over his head in a weird-looking yoga pose. You know, just to be different. “I have a very special Christmas story to tell you all tonight. It’s about the real meaning of Christmas,” Donald said, and then he began to tell his tale.

Twas the night before Christmas and Sean still hadn’t found a gift for Orlando. It was an absolute disaster. He’d been shopping for months and months, had found gifts for every single other person on his Christmas list – but still hadn’t found what he wanted to get for Orlando. Then again, the gift in question was highly specific. A golden burrito. A burrito Orlando could be extremely proud of and display prominently on his shelf at home. Sean searched high and low, sniffed many things (because that’s how Sean sees things – through smell, like dolphins experience sonar), and had yet to come across a golden burrito. Nevermind the fact that Sean had begun to have doubts whether the gift was even a good idea. All this time, Sean had thought Orlando was from El Salvador, but Donald had recently said something about that all being a lie and the truth being that Orlando was really from Iceland but too embarassed to admit it. Sean didn’t quite understand why Orlando would find it so embarassing, and had dismissed Donald’s comments initially. Now they lingered at the back of his mind. Now that Seans quest for the golden burrito had led him to an extremely sketchy part of town on Christmas eve. It was getting dark and he was in a bad part of town. Tracy lived there.

Sean tiptoed through the back alleys of Tracy’s part of town. He didn’t want to accidentally bump into her. Things had been weird between the two of them ever since they’d made out in a closet at Marc’s Christmas party. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. The two had been playing spin the bottle (just the two of them were playing, and it had made perfect sense at the time though clearly the stage was already set for disaster) and off they’d gone into the closet. Only Sean was feeling a cold coming on and didn’t want to give it to Tracy, so he’d reached in the darkness for something to substitute for his own mouth. Tracy was leaning in, eyes closed, lips puckered. Sean reacted quickly and grabbed a teddy bear that was sitting in a dark corner. It was only a few seconds into the ‘make-out session’, after Sean had breathed a sigh of relief, that he realized in horror that he was actually holding Marc’s cat up to Tracy’s enthusiastic lips and tongue. And it wasn’t the good end. Tracy was moaning all kinds of encouraging things, none the wiser that she wasn’t partaking in a drunken, friendly makeout sessions with Sean, who was shocked in silence, mouth agap, staring eye to eye with a very happy looking Logan the cat. When Tracy finally opened her eyes, she screamed, bolted out of the closet and promptly threw up on Sherry, who herself was passed out on the floor clutching an empty bottle of Jack Daniels.

And now Sean found himself in that bad part of town on Christmas Eve, scared to bump into Tracy, but in desperate search of a golden burrito for Orlando. He knew Orlando would love the gift, but even Sean didn’t understand why he felt compelled to go to such great lengths to find it. He turned a corner and was so absolutely shocked by what he saw that he hid behind the corner of the building and tried to collect his thoughts. Had he really just seen Emma and Isabelle working together and beating the shit out of Santa? That’s what it had looked like. Emma had been holding him upright while Isabelle punched him hard in the stomach. Sean wiped his eyes, refocused his thoughts and took a better look. That’s exactly what was happening. Emma had Santa in a chokehold and was saying “Yeah, you like that bitch? You like that?” while Isabelle, holding a baseball bat, belted him repeatedly in the stomach yelling “Take that, Fat man!” It was a horrific sight and Sean had to cover his mouth to hide the gasp that escaped his lips. What would have driven Emma and Isabelle to do such a thing? Being someone who hated conflict, he knew he’d never find out. He’d never tell them what he saw or ask them what they were doing. But one thing was absolutely clear to Sean, Santa was going to be in no position to travel around the world and deliver presents. Christmas would be ruined. That’s when Sean realized he needed to find Santa’s sleigh and save Christmas. Orlando’s golden burrito would have to wait.

Staying absolutely quiet, he climbed the fire escape ladder to the roof of the building where he found Santa’s sleigh and reindeer. Looking down, he saw Santa lying unconscious in the snow, while Isabelle and Emma made out passionately in the alley. Sean felt shocked, repelled, engrossed and slightly turned-on by this turn of events. “Mmmm” Emma said between wet, sloppy, deep, passionate kisses that involved an elaborate amount of tongue, “I love it when you’re violent like that baby.” Isabelle reacted by kissing back even more aggressively and with an unnecessary amount of saliva. “No one can know about our bad ass secret love boo.” Sean would have liked to stay and watch more – clearly these two were secret lovers who got aroused by violence – but someone had to save Christmas! He got into the sleigh, grabbed the reigns – it was almost instinctual how easy the thing was to pilot and he immediately began his journey around the world delivering presents.

Nir was lighting another candle for Hannukah. He was a terrible jew and had no idea what night of Hannukah it was, or even if it was Hannukah but he enjoyed candles and lit some in a menorah every night of the year just to be safe. He was reciting the traditional jewish prayer, well, he thought it was a jewish prayer but it was really mostly lyrics from a sir mix a lot song, when he heard a clatter from the living room. Since his condo was compact, his living room was also his kitchen (and bathroom)  the clatter came from exactly a foot and a half behind him. He spun around with his menorah, ready to attack whatever intruder had come into his place only to find Sean getting to his feet. “Sean, ” Nir said, “How did you get in here?” Sean explained the whole story and Nir didn’t blink an eye as he listened. When Sean was done, Nir promptly went to the bedroom to put on some underwear and pants. He’d been lighting his menorah naked, as was the jewish custom (as far as he knew), balls flapping in the breeze from his humidifier.  He had tried to maintain eye contact with Sean during the length of the story but when Sean’s eyes had drifted down at the end of his tale, Nir threw the menorah at his friends face, temporarily blinding him with hot wax. “So you’re going to save Christmas Sean? All by yourself?” Nir called, putting on pants and a shirt. “Yup!” Sean replied, “I have no idea if I can do it, but I’m going to try. Do you want me to put Santa’s gift for you under your tree….er….dreydl?” Nir returned to the living room, now fully dressed “Sure – but I’m coming with you. You can’t save Christmas by yourself!”

So off Nir and Sean went to save Christmas, they delivered gifts around the world, carefully avoiding anti-aircraft missiles and alien abductions. It took all night and some questionable energy pills to keep their focus (provided by Jason) but somehow they managed to do it. Their journey brought them full circle until their was only one house left. Tracy’s. “Do you want to do this one?” Sean asked, an uncomfortable silence settling between the two. Nir shook his head, “What the hell happened between you too?” Sean wanted to confess what had happened at Marc’s party, but was far too emberassed. Nir crossed his arms, “Well, I’m not going down that chimney. Presents are nice, but friendship is magic. You need to fix what you broke.” Sean went to reply but realized the truth in Nir’s words. So he made his way down Tracy’s chimney which, since she didn’t have a fireplace, was really an air vent that led into her oven. He popped out of her oven and trying to be as quiet as possible, tiptoed over to her Christmas tree. He had just placed her gift beneath the colourful, twinkling lights when a voice spoke at his back, “What are you doing here?” It was Tracy, and she stared him down with cold, indifferent eyes. “Tracy,” Sean said, “I’m sorry that I made you kiss Logan’s ass.” She coughed and corrected him, ‘French kiss Logan’s ass.” “Nobody said you had to french kiss.” Sean tried to defend himself. “Listen, I don’t phone it in buddy.” She replied. Sean shook his head, “Just stop. We both had had way too much Whiskey. Remember Sherry passed out on the floor? She had alcohol poisoning. When you left, Michel and Marc had to jump up and down on her chest to get her to throw up. I don’t think it was CPR, it seemed pretty violent, but it’s the thought that counts. They saved her life. We were all really really drunk. We all make mistakes, especially when drinking. It’s not worth losing a friendship over.” Tracy seemed to consider, then finally she crossed over to Sean and the two hugged it out, with a little tongue. It was a Christmas miracle.

When Sean got back on the roof, Nir was anxious to hear the good news about the reconciliation. “Oh, “Nir said, “I forgot to mention. There was one more gift in that bag and it’s for you Sean.” Nir held out a box that was clearly labelled with his name. He opened it up and inside, found a golden burrito. At first, he thought there may have been a screw up – this gift was clearly destined for Orlando but upon further reflection, Sean understood the message perfectly clear. The gift of giving, of bringing a smile to someone elses face is the biggest, most wonderful gift anyone can ever hope to experience. It transcends receiving gifts. Giving love feels even better than receiving love. Whether it’s an iPad, a cruise or a thoughtfully crafted story, the real magic of Christmas is the gift of thought and caring. The golden burrito would go to Orlando, sure, but Sean would spend his holidays feeling truly happy with his contribution towards the happiness of those around him.

“So,” Donald asked, back at the party, “What did you all think of my story?” Santi started to make a joke about brocolli but Coco did the splits and he lost his train of thought. Marc was now stuck in his weird protestful  yoga pose and Jen was desperately trying to untangle him. Sherry was passed out on the floor clutching a bottle of Jack Daniels and moaning her own name. Donald realized that none of them were paying attention, and while at first it made him upset, he then realized that simply having all of his favourite people in one room for the holidays was all he really wanted. His heart swelled with joy and happiness.

Then the roof collapsed and killed them all.


“What’s more important than maintaining one’s capacity for enthusiasm?” – Mistakes Were Made


I have been on quite a journey, chomping off a show that was a bigger challenge than I ever anticipated – and even what I did anticipate was already going to be a bigger challenge than I felt I could face. Nine months of line memorization and character work came to an end when the smoke cleared on opening night of “Mistakes Were Made”. I was backstage, saying to myself, why am I doing this? I could be home relaxing. Doing nothing. And then my feet carried me onstage and the show started. It didn’t go perfectly, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.


It’s the best mistake I’ve ever made.

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By pushing myself this hard, not only have I grown, I have built bonds with my team that are deeper than they can ever imagine. My directors will never know how seriously I took their notes, how much I respect their talent, vision and input. The people you don’t see, for taking care of the set every night, the lights, the outreach to the media – there are so many moving parts who don’t get to take a bow at the end of the show – and there work is just as valid, time consuming and incredible as anything I do. And I’ve had the luck and joy of having two incredible actors hide in the shadows to bring this show to life. It’s an insane dream that will have come to an end too early.

For the first time in my life, I’ve seen how being on stage can be work. It’s a good kind of work and anybody who should be so lucky as to entertain audiences for a living should recognize how lucky they are, but it is work none the less. Since opening it has never once been a case of me just enjoying my day, coasting in and doing a show. I make sure to monitor my energy and rest, run lines constantly and still have a lot to learn about how to give a consistent show every night. That’s been the gift of doing so many performances, in front of so many crowds.

Out of nowhere, I’m surprised that my favourite part of the show is the ending. It was the hardest thing to do, be vulnerable, emotional – not make people laugh but make them see something really different. I feel like I’ve shown a different side of what I can do, and I’m anxious to hopefully find new sides to explore in the future.

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To know that the show has been, for the most part, extremely well received is heart-warming and it’s a nice moment for me to feel like I did a good job. I always knew everybody else involved would do amazing, but they could do as much as they wanted and if I wasn’t good as Felix the show would fail. That was a tremendous amount of pressure, and it’s why I chose the show, I guess. I’m realizing that now. To test myself and see if I could do it. I’m lucky to be working with the best talent in this city, the best artists, the best visionaries.


After all, I want to work with artists – it’s what excites me.


But for now, some rest.


And then the revolution.

“I was going to get so many things done, so many wonderful things. I thought of life as an opportunity to make things happen.” – Mistakes Were Made


This article is part of an ongoing expose on “Mistakes Were Made” premiering August 20th at Mainline. Buy tickets here.

(Original Journal Entry from August 1st, 2014)


So the show is off-book now. I’ve memorized a fifty-page script. Not perfectly. I’d say I’m at about 96.7%. I thought there would be confetti canons and alcohol to celebrate the accomplishment but instead I’m a bit…exhausted? Confused?

I’ve realized that the monumental task of memorizing is less than half the battle. Finding the energy and focus to bring each sentence to life – consistently over the 75 minutes of the show is a challenge I’m not entirely sure I can overcome. It’s a hurdle I didn’t see coming. I always have stage energy, but this show is different. It’s a lot.
And if these two challenges weren’t enough (and make no mistake, Mistakes Were Made is the hardest thing I’ve ever done – though I may suck at it so badly once it goes on stage you’ll be like “Was it hard sucking that bad Donald?” And I will tell you yes.) I have the madness of producing this show and Contractions at the same time. I mean, Sherry is producing Contractions but I’m assisting and Nir is assisting me with Mistakes Were Made – but every piece of promotion that’s made it’s way out there, the pictures, the videos – organizing the schedules, the meetings with the theatre – answering endless questions about how we’re going to bring this show to life physically, while trying to shut my brain off in a rehearsal and just take notes so I can be a better actor…
I’ve realized (AGAIN – cuz I know I’ve said it before) but I am terrible at organizing my time. People confuse my drive and commitment for getting things done with talent at getting things done. That’s not the same thing. I communicate poorly to my team. Just getting everyone in the same spot to film the ‘Denise’ lip dub and surprise Sean for his birthday was a miracle of luck. And because I am bad at organizing my time, I end up on vacations responding to texts and being short with the people who matter most because I’m distracted.  I’m not even mentioning my job. My full-time job that pays the bills. That takes up time too.
So as I finished memorizing the text I felt empty – like I never properly enjoyed major moments of my life over the past few months because I was preoccupied with something that is not nearly as important as those moments with my family, Patrick, and his family. I haven’t been there for my close friends the way I should have been. 
Life is too short to not enjoy those moments. And life is also too short to not chase your dreams. It’s a conundrum for me because clearly I’m incapable (at this time) of balancing both. 
So what do I do?
I do the hard thing and try to bring balance back, because until I can balance both sides of my life I will never be happy and never be able to move forward in either direction.
I am stepping aside as a producer at Brave New Productions. It’s still a creative outlet for me, and I hope we are able to work with new producers to bring new projects to life. I have no doubt that the company will do great things, and I will be there to embody my role as creative director and company member but I also need to do great things myself both professionally and personally, and I will never be able to do that when I’m elbow deep in the day to day workings of my company. I hope to work with the team to find passionate people who will replace the aspects of my role I’ve been unable to fully commit to, and in my mind this can only make the company stronger.
I’ve worded that all in the least dramatic way possible. 
Because I hate drama. It has no place in theatre. 
I love my life, now I’d like to enjoy it for awhile. I don’t want to look back and wish I could have frozen time. Being stuck in a regret sounds terrible, feels terrible when I put myself in Felix Artifex’s shoes. It’s an infinite purgatory that I have a chance, now, to redirect my path away from.
And that’s the destination for all of this. That is what I’m saying with Mistakes Were Made. It’s a goodbye of sorts, to a big chapter of my life and work (I used to have hair btw). I’m saying Thank You for putting up with my plethora of Mistakes over the years. I’m saying look at Felix, digging his own grave. Don’t you wish you could stop him? Save him? Help him? 
But I’m not giving up on my dream. Not in the slightest.
To be honest, my dream happens every time Patrick and I drive somewhere and I reach across to hold his hand – I can’t do that if I’m always answering a phone.

“…and I know how important it is to you at this point in your career that our inner child gets what he needs…but I have to tell you this play is rising like a f*cking soufflé!”


This article is part of an ongoing expose on “Mistakes Were Made” premiering August 20th at Mainline. Buy tickets here.

(Original Journal Entry from June 15th, 2014)

I have been memorizing lines little by little, all the time. On the plane, on vacation. Every little chance I have, I try to learn a bit more of the text.

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At 40,000 feet – countless crew members have been helping me memorize and practice during our downtime on the plane.  

It’s frustrating in some ways. The role is perhaps more of a challenge than I can overcome. That’s not a bad thing. It’s pushing me extremely hard and even if I come up short, it will have still pushed me past any limits of what I’ve done before. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still trying to get there – and I hope I do, this whole experience of going past my comfort zone is unexpectedly challenging – and scary. I’m realizing to try something truly different and new, you do have to be brave. I’m not talking about the result. Just to try takes courage.
The funny is fine, but the length of the show means it can’t just be funny and that’s where I’m scared. Being vulnerable is scary. Nir is really pushing for it and I want to bring that to life, it’s just…I can’t be fake. I can’t go somewhere fake when I’m funny (people won’t laugh) and I can’t do it when I’m serious – so it’s hard (maybe impossible) work.
We just went into the Fringe and what a nice breath of air it’s been since Done To Death. It’s nice to just laugh and have something to celebrate. It’s a nice reminder as to why we do this, why I do this. 

Rome, on “vacation”

But this experience has reminded me of something…I like performing, but I am not a producer. I have drive, more drive than most people and that is why people recognize I get stuff done, but that drive is not the same as me being organized and resourceful. I am neither of those things – and working on shows for Brave New Productions, based purely on drive, eats up far too much of my life. It leaves me feeling stressed out and short with the people I care most about, and that’s just unacceptable. It also compromises the time I can spend working on the part I love most: performing.
I see Felix Artifex and what that all encompassing focus did to his life and…I see something there. I can’t articulate it right now but there’s a meaning to me that is deeply personal.
It’s a weird place that I find myself in right now. Putting the most energy I’ve ever channeled into a show few people may ever see. Taking the challenge and the experience of Mistakes Were Made and using it to reach a new level of understanding about myself. 
I guess, in that way, the success of it all is not that important, though who doesn’t want to be good at what they do? Something is happening in my mind and that may be the biggest gift I can take from this.

“Whatever. Something simple, you know? Something any shmuck can do.” – Mistakes Were Made


This article is part of an ongoing expose on “Mistakes Were Made” premiering August 20th at Mainline. Buy tickets here.

(Original Journal Entry from April 28th, 2014)

The waves never stop.

I spent the afternoon by the beach today. Life has been exhausting but today was my first chance to breathe since the hospital. A busy work schedule and a series of unfortunate and unrelated illnesses (a cold, food poisoning) have left me feeling exhausted.

But I got a lucky layover and the chance to enjoy some time in the sun. Sitting by myself on the beach, the final sniffles of my cold dissipating, it was far too easy to get lost in the sights and sounds of the ocean.

The waves crawling up on the sand were mesmerizing, and made me think of our time being alive. Each wave is born somewhere in the ocean and goes on a journey that will eventually end on it’s crashing up onto the beach. Some waves are bigger than others, but eventually we all recede back into the ocean. Maybe to become a new wave one day.

Maybe to become a raindrop.


I’ll lose you if I keep being poetic or…spiritual? Is that what I’m being? I’m not high or drunk, I promise.

I’ve asked both Emma McQueen and Stephanie McKenna to join Nir in offering me direction. I know that’s excessive to say the least. Three directors for one actor. The truth is these ladies are so talented, if I can infuse the show with even a hint of their vision and talent it will be a gift. What Emma knows about direction and what Stephanie knows about comedy eclipse my own skills and there is just so much I can learn from them.

I’ve asked Sean Curley and Stephanie Coco Palermo if they’d be interested in taking on the supporting roles in the piece. Of course that’s insane. Both are ACTRA, both are pros with insane performance skills – and both are important friends who actually said yes. They’ve said yes to this insane piece that hides one of them behind an aquarium and one behind a frosted glass door.

Finally, Isabelle has asked to step beyond her lighting role and fully embody her title of tech director. She wants to help build the set. I’m more than happy to have my hands clear on that, so I can focus on acting.

Sherry has also been in touch. She mentioned in New York that she wanted to help in some way to produce Mistakes Were Made. I can’t take her money though. Mistakes will most likely prove to be a financial loss (I can’t see strong attendance) and there’s barely a chance she’d make her money back. But if I can make sure she gets…something… out of if. I’ll have to think about it for a bit, but it’s not like I want to turn away the financial assistance.

Already the lonely journey feels less journey. Actually it feels just as busy as any other production. So much for peaceful waves.

“I don’t want your sympathy. I just want a hint of human emotion. I want you to prove to me you’re not a recording on a space probe.”


This article is part of an ongoing expose on “Mistakes Were Made” premiering August 20th at Mainline. Buy tickets here.

(Original Journal Entry from March 28th, 2014)

A hockey player with a pre-existing heart condition passed out at a game and they cancelled it. I was still in recovery mode, lying in bed and semi-awake when I heard Patrick watching the news. I cried. I cry a lot, I always have, but this week it’s been a different monster altogether. This hockey player has made me face a reality. He’s made me realize that I need to fight this depression. He knew he had a condition that could interfere with his life but he pursued his goals anyway.

I have to believe that while the end sucks for everybody, giving in to that terrible fact and staying depressed about it – is a waste. The only way to balance out the terribleness of the end is to live the best life I possibly can. So maybe one day I’ll have a nosebleed on stage, or while on vacation somewhere – but at least I will have been doing my damnedest to live.

That’s what I say, it’s what I believe, but it’s hard to not let the thoughts creep in. Remembering the emergency room, all the blood – knowing that might (and probably will) happen again at some point in my future is a really hard thing to shake.

But I will shake it.