Elizabeth Blair

Elizabeth Blair is a Senior Producer/Reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.

On a daily basis, she produces, edits and reports arts and cultural segments that air on NPR News magazines including Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Her recent stories explored the rise of public humiliation in popular culture, consumers' changing media habits and the intersection of the arts and education.

In this position that she has held since 2003, Blair's varied work has included profiles of actor Neil Patrick Harris, rapper K'Naan, and the band Pearl Jam. She has written and produced long-form documentaries on such cultural icons as Paul Robeson and Billie Holiday. Blair oversaw the production of some of NPR's most popular special projects including "50 Great Voices," the NPR series on awe-inspiring voices from around the world and across time in, and the "In Character" series which explored famous American fictional characters.

Over the years, Blair has received several honors for her work including two Peabody Awards and a Gracie.

For three and a half years, Blair lived in Paris, France, where she co-produced Le Jazz Club From Paris with Dee Dee Bridgewater, and the monthly magazine Postcard From Paris.

The CBS legal drama The Good Wife centers on smart, attractive Chicago lawyer Alicia Florrick. She's "the good wife" because she stood by her politician husband when he cheated on her.

But the show's most compelling story line has always been between Alicia and another lawyer, Will Gardner. And if you don't want to know what happened in that storyline last night, stop reading NOW.

No, Really: Major Spoiler Ahead

The new head of the Smithsonian Institution was announced Monday. David Skorton will leave his job as president of Cornell University to become the institution's 13th secretary since its founding in 1846.

Skorton becomes the first physician to lead the Smithsonian. He's a board-certified cardiologist and amateur jazz musician. Most importantly for the Smithsonian, he's a skilled fundraiser. Skorton led a team that raised $5 billion during his eight years at Cornell.

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The Lego Movie opened last night in theaters across the country. It's latest example of the magic of animation, filmmakers who bring plastic to life, make animals talk and send toys singing and dancing across a big screen. But animators also love to hurl our most beloved characters over cliffs. They blow them up with dynamite, flatten them with speeding trains. Seconds later, they pop back up and dust themselves off.

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead on Sunday in his Manhattan apartment. He was 46.

Hoffman was steeped in his profession — in film, on stage, in the spotlight and behind the scenes.

In 2005, he won the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of Truman Capote. The movie focuses on Capote's interviews with two murderers on death row for his nonfiction novel In Cold Blood.

Super Bowl suspense is building — for the game and the commercials. With an audience of over 100 million people, advertisers covet this space, but at a reported $4 million a spot, only the mightiest corporations can afford Super Bowl exposure. This year, though, there's an exception. One lucky little business will get one of those primo slots — free.

Can wealthy art lovers help save Detroit's pension funds — and one of its museums?

Fans of the animated comedy Family Guy got a shock Monday. Some wailed about it on Twitter and Facebook. Spoiler alert: The episode was about the death of Brian, the family dog. One fan started a petition to insist that Fox bring back Brian. It reached 30,000 signatures in less than 24 hours. But the internet has made petitions so easy, they may have lost their power.

Just in time for Halloween comes a new movie version of Stephen King's horror novel Carrie. While the teenaged Carrie White is clearly at the center of the story, I think her mother is the more fascinating character.

Carrie — about a shy misfit whose coming of age collides with her mother's fearful religious fundamentalism and her schoolmates' pack-animal cruelty, with combustible results — scared the bejesus out of me when I was a teenager. Carrie turned out to be dangerous, sure. But it was her mother, Margaret White, who made my heart stop.

Federal bureaucracies aren't the only ones scaling back operations during the government shutdown. It's also meant that kids couldn't take field trips to the Smithsonian.

In fact most of the popular Washington attractions funded by the government are closed. That includes the Smithsonian's 19 museums and the National Zoo, plus Ford's Theatre and the National Gallery of Art.

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I don't know about you, but I'm a little troubled when I hear about people who watch multiple screens. You know what I'm talking about. Maybe you're watching a movie at home while live tweeting, or while keeping track at a ballgame. At least movie theaters are a sacred space, immune to these changes.

One of the surprise movie hits this past weekend was almost entirely in Spanish. Instructions Not Included made an enormous amount of money per screen, more than $22,000, playing in fewer than 350 theaters. The boys in One Direction had the number one film, but they pulled in less than $6000 per screen. That's a huge victory for star Eugenio Derbez, a household name in Mexico, and for Pantelion films, which has been trying to find a Spanish-language hit in the U.S. film market for a few years now.

It's not exactly a building boom, but several public libraries around the country are getting makeovers. The Central Library in Austin, Texas just broke ground on a new building that promises such new features as outdoor reading porches and a cafe. In Madison, Wis., they're about to open a newly remodeled library that has, among other improvements, more natural light and a new auditorium. Historic libraries in Boston and New York City are looking at significant renovations.

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Emmy nominations were announced in Los Angeles today. The big winners were the FX miniseries "American Horror Story," with 17 nominations, and HBO's "Game of Thrones" with 16. And then there's Netflix. The company that began as a DVD mail service is now producing its own shows and today, three of them picked up Emmy nods, including nine for "House of Cards," as we hear from NPR's Elizabeth Blair.

Hari Kondabolu is a brainy comedian who cuts through the polite talk around race and gender. He's made a lot of key people laugh with his incisive anecdotes, including Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O'Brien and John Oliver.

A full-time writer on the FX show Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, he recently did a comedy bit on the National Spelling Bee, or "as I like to call it," he joked, "the Indian Super Bowl."

Anyone who worked closely with Pete Seeger knew the legendary folk singer's wife. For seven decades, Toshi Seeger organized his festivals and handled his travel and correspondence. The social activist died Tuesday. She was 91.

There will be hits and misses at movie houses this summer, but it's a decent bet Despicable Me 2 will end up in the that-went-well column.

The star, a would-be world-dominating supervillain named Gru, is a hulking, blustering figure with an appetite for mayhem — and a surprising soft spot. He'll boast that he's about to pull off "the crime of the century," then sit down to read his little girls — he's recently, reluctantly, adopted three of them, and they're adorable — a bedtime story.

Parents steer their kids to media for all kinds of things: as a distraction so they can make dinner, to teach letters and numbers, and for pure entertainment. There are also times when parents rely on books, TV, museums and other media when they aren't quite sure how to approach a difficult topic by themselves.

Call it the Smithsonian's bubble problem. One of the Smithsonian museums — the Hirshhorn museum for contemporary art — came up with an ambitious new design to add more space: Why not build a giant, inflatable structure that would be big enough for people to walk around in?

But some of the Smithsonian's trustees in Washington, D.C., haven't been blown away by the bubble.

TV is still a huge topic of conversation on and offline, according to recent research. In fact, conversation about TV is growing in the last few years. And face-to-face word of mouth still has tremendous power when it comes to attracting new viewers to a show. TV still seems to be the most influential medium when it comes to shaping American culture.

It's Cinderella plus Jackie Robinson times two. When Venus and Serena Williams burst onto the lily-white world of tennis, they changed the game and made history: They were sisters. From a poor neighborhood. Who brought unprecedented power to the game. And both reached No. 1.

Their journey is the subject of a new documentary called Venus and Serena, showing in select theaters around the country.

This is the third in a three-part series about the intersection of education and the arts.

Life Pieces to Masterpieces is an arts program that's not entirely about the art. It's an after-school program based in a struggling neighborhood in Washington, D.C., that teaches black boys and young men what they call "the four C's": "Connect, create, contribute, celebrate." From ages 3-25, they learn to express themselves by conceiving their paintings together. And those paintings will often reflect what's going on in their lives.

This is the second in a three-part series about the intersection of education and the arts.

Let's start with a question from a standardized test: "How would the world be different if we all had a third eye in the back of our heads?"

It's not a typical standardized question, but as part of the Next Generation Creativity Survey, it's used to help measure creativity a bit like an IQ test measures intelligence. And it's not the only creativity test out there.

How we end up in life has a lot to do with where we came from. That theory gets a good workout in the play Good People, from Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire. When the show was on Broadway two years ago, the trade magazine Variety proclaimed that "If Good People isn't a hit, there is no justice in the land."

As it turns out, justice has been served: Good People is the most produced play in America this theatrical season. By the end of this summer, it will have been on stage in 17 different cities.

It's a story right out of the movies: The artistic director of one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world is violently attacked. His attacker and the motive are shrouded in mystery. But behind these sensational headlines is a ballet company that is both legendary and plagued with scandals and infighting.

For many, the stakes and the scale of World War II are hard to fathom. It was a war fought around the world, against powerful, determined regimes in Europe and the Pacific; some 65 million people died. And as the number of people who have actual memories of the war dwindle — as of next year, there will be fewer than 1 million living veterans — the mission of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans becomes all the more urgent.

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The voice of a great soul classic has died. Fontella Bass sang the 1965 hit "Rescue Me." She was 72 years old and died from complications caused by a recent heart attack. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: It's a perfect song with a perfect voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RESCUE ME")

FONTELLA BASS: (Singing) Rescue me. Take me in your arms. Rescue me. I love your tender charms. I'm rather lonely and I'm blue. I need you and your love, too. Come on and rescue me.

This weekend, some big names are coming to Washington for a red-carpet event. Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, ballerina Natalia Makarova, blues guitarist Buddy Guy and the British rock band Led Zeppelin will be receiving the annual Kennedy Center Honors.

It's a prestigious award given to only a handful of performers each year. But over the past few months there's been controversy surrounding the awards. In its 35-year history, only two honorees have been Hispanic, despite the fact that Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States.

Kevin Clash, the Sesame Street puppeteer who made Elmo a sensation, has resigned.

Political commentators will be working overtime in the countdown to the presidential election. So will political comedians, including the candidates' impersonators.

Impersonators have been part of the political landscape for so long, it's hard to imagine a time without them: Rich Little, Dana Carvey, Will Ferrell, Dan Aykroyd, Darrell Hammond, Tina Fey and other comedians have all famously done their turns as candidates. Remember "I can see Russia from my house"?

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