Elizabeth Blair

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.

Blair produces, edits, and reports arts and cultural segments for NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. In this position, she has reported on a range of topics from arts funding to the MeToo movement. She has profiled renowned artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Mikhail Baryshnikov, explored how old women are represented in fairy tales, and reported the origins of the children's classic Curious George. Among her all-time favorite interviews are actors Octavia Spencer and Andy Serkis, comedians Bill Burr and Hari Kondabolu, the rapper K'Naan, and Cookie Monster (in character).

Blair has overseen several, large-scale series including The NPR 100, which explored landmark musical works of the 20th Century, and In Character, which probed the origins of iconic American fictional characters. Along with her colleagues on the Arts Desk and at NPR Music, Blair curated American Anthem, a major series exploring the origins of songs that uplift, rouse, and unite people around a common theme.

Blair's work has received several honors, including two Peabody Awards and a Gracie. She previously lived in Paris, France, where she co-produced Le Jazz Club From Paris with Dee Dee Bridgewater, and the monthly magazine Postcard From Paris.

Comedian and actor A.J. Johnson has died. Johnson was best known for Friday, Menace II Society and The Players Club.

Anthony "A.J." Johnson, who played Ezal, a homeless man with drug addiction, in Friday and E.Z.E. in House Party, died on Friday. His death was confirmed by a spokesperson. He was 55. No cause of death has been disclosed.

According to TMZ, Johnson "was found lifeless in a store earlier this month in Los Angeles and rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead."

Season 2 of The Morning Show starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston premieres on Apple TV+ tonight. Witherspoon and Aniston play competitive, morning TV anchors for a company that's in the midst of a major MeToo scandal. But, to keep the show topical, writers made significant changes so that the pandemic would be part of the narrative.

The doors of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul are closed. The music school's young students, teachers and faculty are staying home — they have reason to fear. According to founder and director Ahmad Sarmast, "armed people entered school property" recently. He says they tried to steal cars the school uses for transportation and destroyed musical instruments. Under the Taliban in the 1990s, music was strictly forbidden. Performing, selling or even listening to music at home could get you in trouble.

British children's author and illustrator Jill Murphy has died. Murphy's books include The Worst Witch and The Large Family series. Murphy died of cancer at a hospital in Cornwall on Wednesday at the age of 72. According to her publisher, her son Charlie and niece Isabelle were at her side.

Renowned singer-songwriter Bob Dylan has been accused of drugging and sexually abusing a minor in 1965. A complaint filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on behalf of a woman referred to only as J.C. alleges that the legendary musician "befriended and established an emotional connection with the plaintiff, J.C., to lower her inhibitions with the object of sexually abusing her, which he did..." J.C. is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.

Call it fate or an unfortunate coincidence that Dr. Seuss' The Lorax celebrates its 50th anniversary the same week the United Nations releases an urgent report on the dire consequences of human-induced climate change. The conflict between the industrious, polluting Once-ler and the feisty Lorax, who "speaks for the trees," feels more prescient than ever.

For live music fans, what was supposed to be "hot vax summer" has begun to feel more like "delta variant downer." The recent COVID-19 surges around the country are putting a damper on the joys of finally experiencing live music again even as major festivals and concerts return. It's also putting organizers and artists in the music industry in an increasingly tricky and uncertain position.

Despite multiple apologies, rapper DaBaby continues to face criticism — and cancellations — for homophobic comments he made during the Rolling Loud festival in late July.

Dave Chappelle gave thousands of his fans in Washington, D.C., lots to love this weekend. Some 3,500 attended his show at the concert venue The Anthem on Friday, this being the theater's first show after being dark for 485 nights.

"You could power an entire city on the electricity that was in that room," says Audrey Fix Schaefer, a spokesperson for I.M.P. which owns The Anthem. "It was just an amazing thing," she says, "after all this time and all this anxiety we've had not being able to bring people in and give people jobs and let people come in and enjoy themselves."

Director Richard Donner, a pioneer of action-adventure movies, has died. He was 91. His death was confirmed by a spokesperson with Warner Bros. No cause has been disclosed.

He is survived by his wife, producer Lauren Shuler Donner; they met during the making of the 1985 movie Ladyhawke. Together, they founded The Donners Company, whose credits include the X-Men and Free Willy franchises.

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