Elizabeth Blair

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award winning, 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.

If you ask Mike Birbiglia, the principles of improv apply everywhere: "It changed the way I thought about everything," says the writer, director and actor. "[It] helps in parenting and being a good husband and being a good friend ... any collaborative job."

Best known for his stand-up comedy and roles in GIRLS and Orange Is the New Black, Birbiglia's latest project is Don't Think Twice, a movie that chronicles the ups and downs of a fictional, New York improv group called The Commune.

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Imagine William Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice set in post-Civil War Washington, D.C.; and now make half of the characters former slaves. Suddenly, it's a completely new play; but it still looks at some of the same themes, including how your actions reflect your beliefs. That new play is Aaron Posner's District Merchants, currently on stage at Washington's Folger Theatre. (This fall, it will also be produced by South Coast Repertory outside of Los Angeles.)

Taika Waititi is an actor and director whose offbeat sense of humor is well-known in his native New Zealand. And while he doesn't enjoy the same recognition in the U.S., he does have something of a cult following here.

Artist Linn Meyers' studio sits tucked in the backyard of an old house in Washington, D.C. "I've been here since 2002," she says. "It used to be a carriage house." The artist is a little embarrassed by the overgrown ivy that covers the studio ("I know it's bad for the brick."), but she hasn't had much time for yardwork: For the past 11 weeks, she's been working on a major, site-specific installation at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

"Everybody's gotta have a little place for their stuff. That's all life is about. Trying to find a place for your stuff." — George Carlin

It's one of his most famous routines and, like all great comedy, contains more than a grain of truth.

Since he died eight years ago, the keeper of George Carlin's "stuff" has been his daughter, writer and performer Kelly Carlin. She says he kept everything: Scrapbooks. Arrest records. The pink slip to his first car, a Dodge Dart. VHS tapes.

You may have seen the crazy amounts of money spent at high end art auctions: $81 million for a Mark Rothko, $179 million for a Picasso. Now, a new memoir called The Auctioneer dishes about the tycoons, rock stars and royalty who play in this high-priced game. Simon de Pury is an art world insider who has been called the "Mick Jagger" of auctions — he once even tried to compete with the two power houses, Christie's and Sotheby's.

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One of the most iconic songs of the civil rights movement is now the subject of a lawsuit.

The so-called Panama Papers have shined a light on the hundreds of thousands of shell companies used to circulate assets around the world. One of those assets is fine art, and the leaked papers show how collectors and companies have secretly bought and sold famous works by artists like Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso, among others.

Casting and skin color are at the heart of a controversy surrounding a new movie about the legendary singer Nina Simone. The movie hasn't been released yet, but the casting of Afro-Latina actor Zoe Saldana in the lead has caused an uproar from some Simone fans and family members.

The Sony Corporation has announced it will pay Michael Jackson's estate $750 million for Jackson's 50 percent share of the Sony/ATV music publishing company.

The backstory here has more twists and shouts than a long and winding road (Couldn't resist, but note that the rights to both "Twist and Shout" and "The Long and Winding Road" belong to Sony/ATV). Sony's purchase marks the culmination of one of the most remarkable stories in the history of the music business.

Beatles fans around the world are paying tribute to the group's longtime producer, Sir George Martin, who died Tuesday at age 90.

Paul McCartney said in a statement, "The world has lost a truly great man who left an indelible mark on my soul and the history of British music." George Martin also left a lasting mark on the art of record production.

Whether horns or harpsichord, so many of the embellishments you hear on the Beatles' songs came from Martin. He wasn't just a good producer, says Grammy-winning producer Nigel Godrich.

First, it's not really black. It's not even a color or a pigment. "Vantablack" is a "material," according to Surrey NanoSystems, the British company that created it.

President Obama has nominated Carla D. Hayden as the next librarian of Congress. If confirmed, she would be the first woman and first African-American ever to lead the world's largest library.

Hayden is currently CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.

In a White House statement, Obama says he and the first lady have known Hayden since she was at the Chicago Public Library, where she was deputy commissioner and chief librarian from 1991-1993.

Screenwriter Meg LeFauve is having a very good year. She's nominated for an Oscar as one of the writers of Pixar's deeply original, animated movie Inside Out; she wrote the screenplay for The Good Dinosaur; and now she's co-writing the female superhero movie Captain Marvel. According to actress Jodie Foster, LeFauve's mentor and one-time collaborator, her gifts as a writer mirror her gifts as a person: sensitivity combined with a "keen, precise mind."

T.J. Miller has played a dragon slayer in the How to Train Your Dragon movies, a man who doesn't always change his underwear in Big Hero 6 and a pothead who thinks he's a tech rock star in HBO's Silicon Valley. Now Marvel fans will know him as bartender Weasel, best friend to the titular superhero in the new, R-rated comic book movie Deadpool.

The aptly titled Sweat is all about work — and the fear of losing it. In the new play by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Lynn Nottage, change is coming for workers at a steel tubing plant. "They've got buttons now that can replace all of us," one character says. Sure enough, the company is about to move production to Mexico and ask longtime union workers to accept lower wages. They refuse, and end up locked out and replaced by immigrant labor.

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It isn't necessarily easy to make funny people laugh, but comedian Amy Poehler says Paula Pell can do it: "She just has this very specific way of telling a joke and being in on the joke," says Poehler.

Comic Bill Burr's new animated Netflix series is set in the 1970s and definitely for mature audiences — think of it as an R-rated cross between All in the Family and The Simpsons.

What movie would be crazy enough to go up against Star Wars?

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The new "Star Wars" hasn't opened yet, but it's already being called the biggest movie the of the year.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS SONG, "OVERTURE")

It's a heart-stopping scene: The protagonist of The Good Dinosaur, an 11-year-old Apatosaurus named Arlo is chasing a little thief who's been stealing his family's food. Arlo's not looking where he's going, and he slips and falls into a river. Panic-stricken, he gasps for air as his body goes hurtling down the raging rapids. The splashes, the currents, the rocks, the sound, the details are so vivid — you feel real fear for this animated dinosaur.

The muppet Julia has not yet made her TV debut, but the wide-eyed little girl with a big smile is the star of her own "digital storybook" called "We're Amazing, 1,2,3."

Among the institutions devastated by the flooding in South Carolina is the home of a ballet company.

Dancers from around the world have come to Columbia to dance in the Columbia Classical Ballet Company, founded more than 20 years ago by Radenko Pavlovich.

Now the company's 32 members have nowhere to rehearse or take classes. Their building, renovated just this summer, has been completely destroyed.

During the flooding, water reached up to the ceiling of the studio. Costumes and music scores were ruined.

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