Tag Archives: postaday

Storytelling Lessons from an Unlikely Source

Don’t refresh your screen. Don’t rub your eyes. What you see above is a championship that has stood the test of time in one form or another. The stories surrounding this belt and its lesser counterparts bring in a loyal audience, providing dependable ratings and life blood for up and coming television networks like USA Network and SyFy (we’ll talk about that questionable name change at a later date).

These stories have been retold for more than four decades with new cast members and new twists, using various forms of media to immerse fans in a complex milieu. They manage to sell out stadiums made for teams that couldn’t hope to do the same. And the man that holds this belt has managed to develop an extremely diverse skillset: stage fighting, choreography, stunt work, public speaking, improvisation, marketing, and acting. Trust me. He’s earned this, and the fanfare that comes along with it. We’re not here just to talk about the WWE Championship, but World Wrestling Entertainment as a whole, and how it taught me a few very important lessons in storytelling.

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Preview 8/20/13: Shakespeare, Hip-Hop, & Why Radio Sucks

Tell us how you really feel about radio, AT. I’ve been procrastinating on this particular series of mine, 16 Bars 3 Acts, because I know you may not like Hip Hop. So I’m going to let you in on a little something – you’ve been underserved by radio.

I really don’t like it. The only radio I listen to now is NPR, and I even start to get tired of that every now and then. I hate radio because it waters down every genre of music out there. Rock becomes contemporary, Jazz becomes R&B Lite, R&B becomes Hip-Hop Lite, and Hip-Hop gets hijacked by the masses of idiots. I kind of get it though. Quality work is quality because it’s rare, and popularity/sales has nothing to do with it. Mozart didn’t receive credit for his work until after his death, at least according to Amadeus.

With that being said, the radio is just serving its function, feeding bread to the masses, regardless of its nutritional value. Unfortunately Hip-Hop is the biggest victim of this system. Since the mid to late nineties the radio has been serving us less than bread; they’ve been serving us soylent green. It’s not your fault that you’re not a fan of the genre. You don’t need to be, but if I’m going to start my series (16 Bars 3 Acts) on Tuesday, I need you to be open to it. I’ll be exploring a modern Jekyll & Hyde in rapper T.I.’s TI vs TIP.

Look past the profanity and the questionable subject matter. If you can tolerate it in Movies and television, you can tolerate it here. If you can handle Mark Twain, you can handle T.I. Look past what the radio’s been shoveling into your ears. Here’s a bit of help.

P.S. I know I was supposed to tell you about the video game that made me cry, but this is taking a lot more time to put together than I thought. I promise I’ll have it up as soon as possible.

Dance: The Body’s Narrative

Gentlemen, let’s talk. For an eternity I have had to hear your excuses for not joining me and my increasingly small number on the dance floor. Dudes don’t dance. Dancing’s gay. It’s not in my DNA, just take a look at that chromosome! I didn’t have a response to any of those excuses when I heard them, often drawing a blank. But I’m a man, I’m straight, I enjoy dancing, but let me tell you why.

I need you to recall the last time you were at a club, bar, lounge, or any kind of social gathering. That’s not too difficult. Now imagine you’ve met a beautiful woman. You’re chatting her up, she seems receptive, and you both seem to be attracted to each other, but let me ask you something. How can you be sure she’s genuine? Will she disappear after you buy her a drink? Is she just a nice person who doesn’t realize she’s leading you on (not likely)? The answer to those questions comes in the form of another question (I promise it’s the last one). Do you look at her body?

Because I do.

No, I’m not talking about salivating at the sight of her curvature like Pavlov’s dog. I’m talking about observing her body language. You see, before we learn how to use verbal language as our primary tool of conscious expression, we have our bodies and nothing else. Even after we have learned to use our words, we continue use our bodies as a means of expression until our last breath, even if we don’t know it. The human form is fundamental to our expression, and it will always tell a story, no matter how simple or complex, whether we want it to or not. So it is no wonder dancing predates almost every form of storytelling mankind has devised. It’s a part of who we are. It’s ingrained in our DNA, and yet so many men in the modern world deny it, brand it as feminine.

I could try to sell you on it, claiming the greatest warriors of the pre-modern world were often the best dancers, or that Football players take ballet to maintain flexibility and prevent injury. If I’m being honest though, your loss is my gain. We’re here to appreciate dance as a form of storytelling.

Let’s start with The Nutcracker. Choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (op. 71), this ballet classic is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann‘s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The heroine of this story is Marie Stahlbaum. Its Christmas morning, she and her family are opening their presents under the tree, and she finds a nutcracker fashioned after a soldier. Although it belongs to the family, she takes a particular liking to it and appoints herself as its primary caretaker. She and her siblings use it liberally until her brother, Fitz, inadvertently breaks it on a large nut. An upset Marie takes the toy away from him and uses her ribbon to repair its broken jaw. Later on the Nutcracker comes alive and transports Marie to a magical kingdom populated by dolls.


This is only my opinion, but when The Nutcracker premiered in 1892 in St. Petersburg, the feminization of dance was already under way. While this was not choreographer Marius Pepita’s most successful premiere it helped continue this trend. Like the majority of Pepita’s productions it had a female heroine, an ambiguous romance, and a brightly colored set. Productions that may have appealed to the men of the era like Don Quixote, were far outnumbered by the likes of Swan Lake, The Pharaoh’s Daughter, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella.

Many friends of mine claim to have a difficult time interpreting these dances, but the truth is people from this era had help. Take another look at those titles I just listed. Like many movies of our time, a large chunk of the productions of Pepita’s era were adaptations of popular books. Certain movements and formations became associated with events in a novel or expressions of a character. Audiences caught on to this, and recognized it when choreographers retooled them for an original story. I often imagine contemporaries claiming “The book is better than the ballet” just to sound intelligent.

So who’s responsibility is it to fill in the gaps of modern dance, to take that extra step so that dance can be appreciated as one of the most genuine forms of storytelling? Writers will tell you it is the responsibility of the storyteller to do that. It seems most modern dance companies are inclined to agree. My favorite example for storytelling in dance is the now defunct LXD, or Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. Yes, it is a less than subtle play on the Legion of Extraordinary Gentlemen. You may recognize these guys. Those crazy dance numbers for the Microsoft Surface Ads – that was The LXD. They were even featured on TED Talks.


This web series, directed by Jon Chu, is about two groups of rival dancers: The Alliance of the Dark who are the villains and The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, the heroes, who discover they have superpowers referred to as “the Ra” through their dance abilities. The entire story takes place over hundreds of years, beginning in the 1920s up to the year 3000. It features more than twelve styles of dance, including ballet, hip hop, contemporary, break dance and tap. There are little to no special effects, the choreography and stunts are real, and everything is shot on location.

I had a hard time figuring out which episode of The LXD to leave you with, which best demonstrates the storytelling power of dance, and how Jon Chu’s series manages to close the gap. They’re all pretty good, but I think the comic book style of Episode 3: Robot Love Story, is a great place to start. Before you play this video, make sure your internet connection is good, and put on your headphones.

See you on the dance floor.

A.T. Augustine

Kudos to Jim Rash & The Writer’s Room

As a native of the Crown Town/Queen City/Charlotte I believe I have a few things to be proud of, but I’m not in denial of the fact that my fair city still has a long way to go in terms of culture. New Yorkers, Londoners, and natives of other world class cities can claim a great number of achievements, among them a long list of notable figures in history, politics, and especially entertainment. In that arena, we’re sorely lacking. We’ve got Billy Graham, Ric Flair, both of whom are debatable in my eyes, but there’s one native of Charlotte I can be proud of. He is an actor and writer by the name of Jim Rash. Don’t know who he is?

That’s okay. Because unless you’re a true connoisseur of television and film writing, I wouldn’t expect you to know who he is, so let me catch you up. Almost everyone in America has seen him in passing, while flipping through the channels on a fall Thursday night on NBC’s Community as the sexually ambiguous Dean of Greendale Community College. The comedy series strength with the critics is in my opinion is its weakness with ratings, its heavy dependence on meta humor and pop culture reference. Here’s a montage of Jim Rash’s portrayal of Dean Craig Pelton.

If that felt random, it was supposed to. Community, to it’s advantage and detriment alike, has become one big inside joke between the fans, actors and writers. That’s not why we’re here though. I just wanted you to know who Jim Rash was. This isn’t the only item on his resume. Hell, it isn’t his only resume. He’s a writer too. Have you heard of a little movie called The Descendants? It won an Academy Award in 2012 for best Screenplay. Jim Rash and his partner in crime Nat Faxon are responsible for that. If you didn’t see it, go check it out. It was one of George Clooney’s most genuine performances.

And while the movie was based on a book by the same name, you and I both know a good book doesn’t necessarily make a good movie. It takes great writers, directors, producers, and actors to get it done. Rash and Faxon managed to capture and enhance the essence of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel, and brought to life a balance of poignancy and comedy that I didn’t catch when I was reading the book. Rash and Faxon have followed up with an original film called The Way Way Back, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. It’s out in theatres right now, and it’s awesome. I laughed the entire time, and it was a great reprieve from all the big budget films of the season. Check it out before it leaves theatres.


Now Rash is hosting a behind the scenes show on the Sundance Channel called The Writer’s Room, in which he gets together with the creators and cast members of some of the most innovative shows on television, including Game of Thrones, New Girl, Dexter, and American Horror Story. I don’t know about you, but I’m an avid watcher of most of those shows. The first episode premiers tonight at 10pm on The Sundance Channel, and Rash’s first guests will be the cast and writers of the AMC’s Breaking Bad. You don’t have to wait until then to check it out. Sundance has already released the first full episode on their website, and since I’ve gotten in the habit of hitting you with YouTube Videos, I’d might as well leave you with the preview, but before I do, I just want to say how proud I am to call Jim Rash a fellow native of Charlotte, North Carolina. Jim, you may never see this, but keep on trucking. I’m rooting for you.