Elizabeth Blair

Elizabeth Blair is a Senior Producer 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.

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Theater
3:47 am
Sat July 19, 2014

With Humor, 'Dead And Breathing' Dives Into End-Of-Life Struggles

Lizan Mitchell (left) as the wealthy and crotchety Carolyn and N.L. Graham as Veronika, her nurse, in the play Dead and Breathing.
Seth Freeman

Originally published on Sat July 19, 2014 6:40 pm

The play Dead and Breathing begins boldly. Sixty-eight-year-old Carolyn takes off her towel and steps into a bathtub completely naked. She's bathed by her chatty nurse, Veronika.

The wealthy, cantankerous woman is dying of cancer. Carolyn, played by Lizan Mitchell, wants to die sooner rather than later, and tries to convince the nurse (N.L. Graham) to help her do that.

It's one of the most talked-about new plays at this year's Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, W.Va., which runs through Aug. 3.

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Theater
2:53 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Actress Elaine Stritch, 'Her Own Greatest Character,' Dies At 89

Stritch first appeared on Broadway in 1944 — and was still performing occasionally even at age 89. She is pictured above in 1955.
AP

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 1:19 pm

Elaine Stritch — one of Broadway's boldest and brassiest performers — has died. With that gravelly voice — and those long legs — and that utter command of the stage, Stritch was a bona fide Broadway star. Not as a classic leading lady, necessarily, but as the hardened-yet-vulnerable performer audiences couldn't forget. Stritch died of natural causes Thursday morning at her home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89.

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Book Your Trip
2:13 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

In 'Little Engine That Could,' Some See An Early Feminist Hero

Was "I think I can" the great-grandmother of "lean in?" Some readers see the plucky locomotive as a parable about working women, but some versions of the story feature a male protagonist instead.
Platt & Munk, Penguin Young Readers Group

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 6:23 pm

"Chug, chug, chug. Puff, puff, puff. Ding-dong, ding-dong."

The beloved tale of the little blue engine — who helps bring a broken-down train of toys to the good little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain — has been chugging along for a very long time. But despite the locomotive's optimistic refrain — I think I can, I think I can, I think I can — the story has a somewhat checkered past: In its tracks, The Little Engine has left both a legal battle and a debate over whether the little blue engine is male or female.

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Music News
12:03 am
Tue June 24, 2014

Think Before You Clap: You Could Be Beat Deaf

They mean well.
iStockPhoto

Originally published on Tue June 24, 2014 9:31 am

People who can't clap on the beat drive comedian Aaron Michael King crazy, especially one group in particular. He devoted a whole YouTube sketch to ... some white people he knows.

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Author Interviews
1:36 am
Fri June 20, 2014

In 'Fever,' Town's Teen Tic Epidemic Gets A Chilling Novelization

Megan Abbott's other books include Queenpin, The Song Is You and The End of Everything.

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 7:50 am

Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction, so it makes sense that novelists get some of their best stories from the headlines. That's what happened with mystery writer Megan Abbott. A few years ago, she was one of the millions of people captivated by news stories about a strange illness that seemed to consume a town in upstate New York. Now, Abbott has taken pieces of that true story and turned it into a chilling new novel.

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Television
2:22 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

The Return of 'Rectify,' A Critical Darling Sprung From Death Row

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 5:08 pm

Rectify is a dark, contemplative TV drama about a man released from prison after two decades on death row. It was also a critical favorite in its first season. For a glimpse into its creation, NPR's Elizabeth Blair talks to show creator Ray McKinnon and actors Aden Young and Abigail Spencer.

Movies
1:02 am
Fri June 13, 2014

'How To Train Your Dragon 2' Is More Growly And Snarly (And Wise) Than Ever

Advanced animation and audio software help bring Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his pet dragon, Toothless, to life in How to Train Your Dragon 2.
DreamWorks Animation

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 11:20 am

The dragons are more fantastic. The stakes are higher. And protagonist Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III still wants humans and dragons to live together in peace. How to Train Your Dragon 2 — one of the most anticipated family movies of the summer — opens Friday.

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War On Poverty, 50 Years Later
3:22 am
Sat May 31, 2014

In Confronting Poverty, 'Harvest Of Shame' Reaped Praise And Criticism

Workers crowd into the backs of trucks in the opening scene of 1960's Harvest of Shame.
CBS News YouTube

Originally published on Sat May 31, 2014 4:31 pm

Fifty years ago this year, President Lyndon Johnson launched his war on poverty; But just a few years before that, CBS gave millions of Americans a close look at what it means to live in poverty.

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Business
11:36 pm
Mon May 26, 2014

Pfizer Drops $119 Billion Bid For AstraZeneca

William Vazquez AP

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 5:57 am

It would have been the biggest deal the pharmaceutical industry has seen in more than a decade. But for now, it's off the table.

Pfizer has withdrawn its offer to buy British drug company AstraZeneca for about $119 billion.

American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which makes Lipitor and Viagra, has been circling its smaller rival AstraZeneca for months.

AstraZeneca, which makes Nexium and Crestor, has rejected every offer saying Pfizer undervalues the company, and that it wants to remain independent.

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Remembrances
3:17 pm
Mon May 26, 2014

Remembering The 'Father' Of G.I. Joe

Originally published on Mon May 26, 2014 3:43 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. Now we're going to remember the man who was known as the father of G.I. Joe. Donald Levine was a toy industry executive in the early 1960s, when the iconic action figure stormed playrooms across the country. Levine died of cancer late last week. He was 86. NPR's Elizabeth Blair does this appreciation.

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Business
3:06 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Edgy Video Promotes Christie's Contemporary Art Sale

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 3:24 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a new way of marketing high-end art.

Spring auction season has kicked off in New York City. Yesterday, paintings by Picasso and Monet helped the auction house, Christie's, cello most $300 million worth of paintings.

As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, this year, Christie's is promoting its auctions in a new way, with something that looks a lot like a music video.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: It's pretty slick.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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Monkey See
2:21 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Maintaining The IMAX Experience, From Museum To Multiplex

IMAX

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 9:17 am

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens this weekend, and some moviegoers will pay up to $6 more to see it in IMAX, where the screens are bigger and the action should be more intense. "So real you can feel it in your bones," is how IMAX puts it. But is the IMAX at the multiplex the same as the IMAX you can see at the museum?

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Dance
2:19 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Bolshoi Director Makes First U.S. Visit Since Acid Attack

Bolshoi Ballet artistic director Sergei Filin addresses the media during a meeting at the Bolshoi Theater. Filin was nearly blinded last year in an acid attack masterminded by one of the company's dancers.
Alexander Zemlianichenko AP

Originally published on Fri April 11, 2014 6:13 pm

Relations between Russia and the U.S. are at one of the lowest points since the Cold War. But one man is trying to do what he can to build a bridge between the two countries, despite his own personal tragedy. Sergei Filin, artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, is in the U.S. for the first time since an assailant threw acid in his face last year, partially blinding him.

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Television
2:46 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Colbert Plans To Take Up The Late Night Mic For CBS

Originally published on Thu April 10, 2014 6:12 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The coveted spot held by David Letterman for 21 years will go to Stephen Colbert. CBS made the announcement today. As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, diehard fans of the Emmy Award-winning "Colbert Report" are mourning this news and others are excited to see what the real Colbert has in store.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: First, Stephen Colbert has said he will not be doing "The Late Show" in character, meaning the over-the-top, right-wing narcissistic character he created for Comedy Central.

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Fine Art
2:05 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

A Tiny Renoir, Stolen In The '50s, Finally Comes Home To Baltimore Museum

Renoir's On the Shore of the Seine returns to the Baltimore Museum of Art more than 60 years after its theft. Rumor has it Renoir painted the tiny piece on a linen napkin for his mistress. It was stolen from the museum in 1951 and resurfaced in 2012 when a woman tried to sell it, claiming she had bought it at a flea market.
AP

Originally published on Fri March 28, 2014 7:23 am

It has the makings of a great mystery: artwork stolen from a prominent museum, plus the FBI, a beautiful woman and an intrepid reporter. But this isn't fiction; it's a strange, true tale of how a painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir has now safely returned home to Baltimore.

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Television
2:44 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Fans Of 'The Good Wife' Rocked By [Spoiler Alert]

Matthew Goode (left) as Finn Polmar and Josh Charles (right) as Will Gardner in Sunday night's episode of CBS's The Good Wife.
CBS

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 4:46 pm

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

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The Two-Way
11:46 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Smithsonian Institution Gets A New Director

Cornell University President David Skorton speaks during a news conference Monday in Washington, D.C.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 1:36 pm

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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Author Interviews
5:56 am
Sat March 1, 2014

With Teens And Social Media, Lack Of Context Is Everything

Originally published on Sat March 1, 2014 9:03 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You know, as I host this program, I'm on a social media platform - Twitter, as a matter of fact. There is no group that takes that new social media platform more than teenagers, and that's exactly what worries a lot of parents. Danah Boyd is a respected researcher in the world of social media. She spent years studying teenagers and how they interact online. Her findings are in a new book called "It's Complicated." In this encore broadcast, NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

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Technology
6:06 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Online, Researcher Says, Teens Do What They've Always Done

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 8:04 am

Researcher danah boyd is obsessed with how teenagers use the Internet. For the legions of adults who are worried about them, that's a good thing.

With a Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley, and a masters from MIT, and as a senior researcher with Microsoft, boyd is something of a star in the world of social media. For her new book It's Complicated, she spent about eight years studying teenagers and how they interact online. She says she wrote the book in part to help parents, educators and journalists relax. "The kids are all right," she says.

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Remembrances
4:12 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Shirley Temple And Bojangles: Two Stars, One Lifelong Friendship

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Shirley Temple perform their famous stair dance in the 1935 film The Little Colonel.
AP

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 6:18 pm

When Shirley Temple Black died earlier this week, many of the tributes mentioned one of the most iconic scenes in American movie history: the staircase dance that Temple performed with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in the 1935 movie The Little Colonel. They were the first interracial couple to dance onscreen. But their partnership was more than just a movie milestone.

He was in his 50s. She was 6. He called her darlin'; she called him Uncle Billy.

Robinson taught Temple his joyful, elegant tap-dancing routines. She thought he was the perfect partner.

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Pop Culture
8:20 am
Sat February 8, 2014

For Top-Flight Animators, The Gag Is An Art All Its Own

Originally published on Sat February 8, 2014 10:05 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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.

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Europe
3:16 am
Thu February 6, 2014

After Prison Stint, Pussy Riot Keeps Up Anti-Government Stand

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 1:18 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene in New York City, where last night Madonna came onto a stage in Brooklyn. She was at a concert for Amnesty International introducing two heroes of the protest movement in Russia.

MADONNA: It is my privilege and my honor, ladies and gentlemen, to introduce Masha and Nadya from Pussy Riot. Ladies, please come to the stage.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

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Remembrances
5:06 pm
Sun February 2, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman: An 'Uncanny' Actor Of Stage And Screen

Hoffman (left) and Eddie Marsan, in a scene from the film God's Pocket, released in January.
Lance Acord AP

Originally published on Mon February 3, 2014 12:53 pm

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.

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Business
2:27 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

In The Super Bowl Ad Game, One Small Business Will Win Big

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 6:55 pm

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.

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Arts & Life
3:31 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Foundations Keep Detroit Art Off The Auction Block

Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 6:53 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

A federal bankruptcy judge in Detroit has mediated a deal that could potentially solve two of the city's biggest problems. The plan would raise money for retirees' pension funds and keep masterpieces from the Detroit Institute of Art from being auctioned off. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

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Arts & Life
1:20 am
Wed December 25, 2013

Detroit Needs Money. Can A 'Grand Bargain' Save The City's Art?

Gladioli, Claude Monet, ca. 1876, oil on canvas.
Detroit Institute of Arts

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 5:04 pm

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

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Number Of The Year
3:51 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Hollywood Holding On To Its Summer Love

This summer, movie studios were up to their necks in big-budget blockbusters, including Disney's The Lone Ranger, which ended up a huge bomb.
Peter Mountain Walt Disney Pictures

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 4:34 pm

As we near the end of 2013, NPR is taking a look at the numbers that tell the story of this year. Numbers that, if you really understand them, give insight into the world we're living in, right now. Over the next two weeks, you'll hear the stories behind these numbers, which range from zero to 1 trillion.

You can understand a lot about how Hollywood works if you understand the number 17. That's the number of big, super-expensive movies that came out in the May to July summer movie season. And only about 10 of them were solidly profitable.

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Movies
2:24 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

For Top-Flight Animators, The Gag Is An Art All Its Own

Frozen storyboard image.
Walt Disney Pictures

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 8:04 am

Watching a living creature slip, stumble, get squashed or just thwack an enemy can be a blast. Because as Charlie Chaplin said: "In the end, everything is a gag."

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Code Switch
2:47 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

What Do We Mean When We Talk About 'Latino Art'?

Radiante, Olga Albizu
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 4:42 pm

When the Whitney Museum of American Art announced the artists for its 2014 biennial, people took to the Internet to chime in about who's been included and who's been left out; the last biennial had been blasted for ignoring Latino artists. But when a new show opened at the Smithsonian American Art Museum featuring only Latino artists — "Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art" — it was blasted for other reasons.

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Movies
3:06 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

The Dallas Cowboy Behind The Real 'Buyers Club'

Ron Woodroof holds a vial of Compound Q — a drug that, in 1989, the FDA hadn't evaluated. His Dallas Buyers Club, which acquired experimental AIDS treatments, is the subject of a new film in which Woodroof is portrayed by Matthew McConaughey.
Randy Eli Grothe Dallas Morning News/Corbis

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 4:49 pm

Feisty. Stubborn. A real cowboy. According to people who knew him, the real Ron Woodroof was very much like the character played by Matthew McConaughey in the new movie Dallas Buyers Club.

Bill Minutaglio — who wrote about Woodroof for The Dallas Morning News — describes him as "salty."

"I kinda liked him. He cursed like four sailors," says Minutaglio.

Chicago attorney Michael Cascino represented Woodroof in a case against the Food and Drug Administration.

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