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.

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.

If you want to make a movie, you generally need a lot of money. And filmmakers have to be creative about raising it.

Just ask the filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival, taking place this week in Park City, Utah. Some 10 percent of the films selected for this year's iteration of the prestigious festival raised money through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter.

In the three years since the website launched, Kickstarter-funded films have been nominated for Oscars, picked up by Showtime and HBO, and honored with awards at Sundance, South By Southwest and Cannes.

Roman Boed / Flickr

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.

Etsy has gotten very big, very fast. This year, sales are at about $800 million.

"Their growth on all the major metrics you want to look at has accelerated really consistently," says journalist Rob Walker.

Walker recently wrote a story for Wired Magazine with the headline, "Can Etsy Go Pro Without Losing Its Soul?" Here's why: Etsy makes money from its sellers: 20 cents every time they list an item and 3.5 percent of every sale. Today, there are some 800,000 sellers.

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"?

Writer Hilary Mantel has won her second Man Booker prize. She was recognized for her book, Bring Up The Bodies. Mantel is the first British writer and woman to win the award more than once.

Sara Pang

Love songs are like the meat and potatoes of most rock and pop music, but sometimes you need something different. For the band Delta Rae from Durham, N.C., inspiration for new material comes from stuff like graveyards and being stuck in the wrong job.

Delta Rae is a six-piece band that includes three siblings: Ian, Eric and Brittany Holljes. Their music is like a kind of modern folklore.

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We're going to hear more now about the film that was, at least in part, the catalyst for the violence in Libya, as well as protests in Egypt. Some news outlets are saying the filmmaker has gone into hiding.

As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, very few people have actually seen the supposed two-hour movie, if it exists at all.

One of Billie Holiday's most iconic songs is "Strange Fruit," a haunting protest against the inhumanity of racism. Many people know that the man who wrote the song was inspired by a photograph of a lynching. But they might not realize that he's also tied to another watershed moment in America's history.

Samantha Edmonson

A queen of comedy has died. Phyllis Diller had audiences in stitches for more than five decades with her outlandish get-ups and rapid-fire one-liners. She died at her home, where she had been in hospice care after a fall. She was 95.

Diller was glamorously outrageous — or at least the character she created was glamorously outrageous, the one who wore wigs that made her look like she had her finger in an electrical outlet, who wore gaudy sequined outfits. She was known for her laugh and those nasty jokes about her dimwitted husband, "Fang."

Marilyn Monroe, a global symbol of beauty, glamour and sex, died on Aug. 5, 1962. Fifty years later, she's still in style — and making more money than ever. Monroe's come-hither expression is emblazoned on posters, T-shirts and refrigerator magnets. She's become a multimillion-dollar brand, but that may never have happened if not for the will she left behind, a document that reveals a much quieter — and more complicated — side to her legacy.

One record expected to be broken at the London Summer Olympics is the size of its audience — an expected 4 billion people. For advertisers, that's a golden opportunity. But there are also strict rules about who can use the Olympics to promote their products.

When Billie Holiday died in 1959, thousands of mourners attended her funeral at St. Paul the Apostle Roman Catholic Church in New York City. The overflow crowd lined the sidewalks. Honorary pallbearers included such jazz greats as Benny Goodman and Mary Lou Williams. Newspapers and magazines ran heartfelt tributes.

Native American comedian Charlie Hill says he's living the American dream.

Actually, make that the "indigenous dream," which he prefers to call it.

Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees has died.

Gibb died Sunday after a long battle with cancer and intestinal surgery, according to a statement on his official website.

"The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this very difficult time," the statement said.

Robin and his brothers Barry and Maurice Gibb racked up dozens of hit songs in their five decade career. Robin Gibb, who had cancer, was 62.

Carlos Fuentes was the son of a Mexican diplomat and spent years living abroad, including in the United States. But Mexico — the country, its people and politics — was central to his writing.

Fuentes, one of the most influential Latin American writers, died Tuesday at a hospital in Mexico City at the age of 83. He was instrumental in bringing Latin American literature to an international audience, and he used his fiction to address what he saw as real-world injustices.

When it comes to monsters on television, vampires have the market more or less cornered. Think about it: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries ...

Vampires' enduring popularity on TV may not be eternal, but they have been appearing on the small screen for decades. Mark Dawidziak, who's written books about vampires and teaches a class at Kent State University on their appearances in film and TV, says that part of the way vampires have remained a force in popular culture is through their evolution on TV.

Saxophonist Andrew Love of the Memphis Horns has died. Love, who had Alzheimer's disease, died on April 12 at his home in Memphis. He was 70 years old.

The Motion Picture Association of America was going to give Bully an R rating for language, but the movie's producer decided to send it out with no rating. The nation's second-largest cinema chain AMC will show it, but Cinemark, the third-largest chain will not.

Basil Twist has been called a genius. The art he's a genius at? Puppetry — which he knows can be a hard sell.

"It's not of this time," he says. "It's not of the world we live in now."

But Twist, a highly trained practitioner, brings this art of the past to the present with innovative creations beyond the likes of the Muppets or their foul-mouthed cousins on Avenue Q.

Robert Sherman — one half of the songwriting team behind Disney movies and major hit musicals — has died. He was 86. The Oscar-winning Sherman Brothers, Robert and Richard, wrote some of the most enduring Disney songs of all time. Their output was astounding: Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Aristocats.

John Lasseter, of Pixar and Disney, once said, "You cannot forget a Sherman brothers song for your life."

Comics Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have known each other for years. They were both in the cast of MadTV. Now they're starting their own sketch-comedy series, due to launch on Comedy Central on Tuesday.

Johnny Otis was many things over his career, including a bandleader, producer, radio and TV host and composer. Additionally, Otis launched the careers of many of R&B's finest singers. Otis died on Tuesday at his home near Los Angeles. He was 90 years old.

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There is no law against walking out the door during intermission, but it can be a dilemma. You're at a concert or a play and for whatever reason decide you don't really want to go back for the second half of the performance. If enough people think the same thing, it can mean a lot of empty seats after the break. It's something audience members do think about. And as NPR's Elizabeth Blair tells us, so do theaters and orchestras, some of which are tightening up their act.

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File Photo / KBIA

Ratings have been a major disappointment for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), but that could change now that Oprah Winfrey is about to debut her own show on the cable channel.

When Winfrey ended her longtime show on broadcast TV earlier this year, there were lots of tears and endless tributes to the queen of daytime talk.

Jerry Wade
KBIA

Public school music teachers are heroes. They coach tiny fourth graders to play violins. The get 60 restless middle schoolers to play the same music at the same time. But their trickiest task of the year might be making selections for the winter concert.

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Criticism against the home improvement chain Lowes isn't letting up. It started after Lowes dropped its ads from the reality TV show "All-American Muslim" in response to pressure from a conservative Christian group. Now an online petition has nearly 20,000 signatures calling on the store to reinstate the ads. Lowes, in a statement, says simply, it is committed to diversity. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has the story.

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