Neda Ulaby

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.

Scouring the various and often overlapping worlds of art, music, television, film, new media and literature, Ulaby's radio and online stories reflect political and economic realities, cultural issues, obsessions and transitions, as well as artistic adventurousness— and awesomeness.

Over the last few years, Ulaby has strengthened NPR's television coverage both in terms of programming and industry coverage and profiled breakout artists such as Ellen Page and Skylar Grey and behind-the-scenes tastemakers ranging from super producer Timbaland to James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features. Her stories have included a series on women record producers, an investigation into exhibitions of plastinated human bodies, and a look at the legacy of gay activist Harvey Milk. Her profiles have brought listeners into the worlds of such performers as Tyler Perry, Ryan Seacrest, Mark Ruffalo, and Courtney Love.

Ulaby has earned multiple fellowships at the Getty Arts Journalism Program at USC Annenberg as well as a fellowship at the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism to study youth culture. In addition, Ulaby's weekly podcast of NPR's best arts stories. Culturetopia, won a Gracie award from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation.

Joining NPR in 2000, Ulaby was recruited through NPR's Next Generation Radio, and landed a temporary position on the cultural desk as an editorial assistant. She started reporting regularly, augmenting her work with arts coverage for D.C.'s Washington City Paper.

Before coming to NPR, Ulaby worked as managing editor of Chicago's Windy City Times and co-hosted a local radio program, What's Coming Out at the Movies. Her film reviews and academic articles have been published across the country and internationally. For a time, she edited fiction for The Chicago Review and served on the editing staff of the leading academic journal Critical Inquiry. Ulaby taught classes in the humanities at the University of Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University and at high schools serving at-risk students.

A former doctoral student in English literature, Ulaby worked as an intern for the features desk of the Topeka Capital-Journal after graduating from Bryn Mawr College. She was born in Amman, Jordan, and grew up in the idyllic Midwestern college towns of Lawrence, Kansas and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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5:30am

Sat May 24, 2014
Television

'Normal Heart' Teaches New Generation About The Early Years Of AIDS

Originally published on Sat May 24, 2014 2:09 pm

In the HBO adaptation of Larry Kramer's 1985 play, The Normal Heart, Mark Ruffalo (right) plays Ned Weeks, who begins to seek answers after he observes a mysterious disease claiming lives in his gay community. Joe Mantello plays a member of the AIDS service organization, Gay Men's Health Crisis.
Jojo Whilden HBO

Why would Ryan Murphy, one of TV's hottest and most prolific producers, decide to adapt a 30-year-old play about the forming of an AIDS service organization for HBO? Because he thought the story of the outbreak of AIDS was being forgotten.

Murphy is the creative mind behind the shows Glee and American Horror Story, and he's remaking The Normal Heart — Larry Kramer's 1985 off-Broadway sensation which revealed the gay community's often fractious response to an epidemic that was then essentially ignored by the government.

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4:05pm

Thu May 15, 2014
War On Poverty, 50 Years Later

In Pricey Cities, Being A Bohemian Starving Artist Gets Old Fast

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 8:18 pm

Rolando Villazon and Alexia Voulgaridou star as Rodolfo and Mimi in a June 2001 production of Giacomo Puccini's opera La Boheme. Some real-life artists say the story cuts a little close to home.
Arno Balzarini AP

There are very few professions where poverty is romanticized, but if you're a Franciscan friar or an artist, being poor is seen as somehow ennobling. Josh Shaw, who ran a recent Pacific Opera Project production of La Boheme in Los Angeles, says the opera's famous story of starving artists hits a little close to home.

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3:38am

Fri May 9, 2014
Pop Culture

Hard 'G' Or Soft, The GIF Takes Its Place As A Modern Art Form

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 3:26 pm

Dramatic chipmunk is one of the examples of the The Reaction GIF: Moving Image as Gesture installation at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City.
Courtesy of Museum of the Moving Image

"!!!!"

That was the body of the note from NPR producer Evie Stone, along with a link to an exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image titled The Reaction GIF: Moving Image as Gesture.

Obviously, Evie and I share a certain sensibility. And just as obviously, I had to go to Astoria, Queens, to check out the exhibit — and report this piece.

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4:03pm

Thu May 8, 2014
Television

Lurid Meets Literary In 'Penny Dreadful,' An All-Star Gothic Revue

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 8:19 pm

Showtime's new psychological thriller re-imagines classic Victorian boogeymen like Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and Count Dracula all lurking in London's darkest corners, discussing romantic poetry. Reeve Carney and Eva Green star as Dorian Gray and Vanessa Ives.
Pat Redmond Showtime

There's a specific subset of NPR listeners who are also dedicated horror fans. If you fall in that category, the new drama Penny Dreadful -- premiering Sunday on Showtime — may hit all your sweet spots. Imagine an all-star Gothic revue that brings together Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, Count Dracula — plus a core team of original characters including a Wild West sharpshooter, an astringent lady spiritualist and an intrepid explorer, in the Sir Richard Burton or David Livingstone mode.

But the show's creator was originally inspired by romantic poetry.

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4:21pm

Wed April 23, 2014
Monkey See

On Television, More Transgender Characters Come Into Focus

Originally published on Wed April 23, 2014 11:06 pm

Laverne Cox plays Sophia on Netflix's Orange Is The New Black, one of several current shows exploring the lives of transgender characters.
Paul Schiraldi Netflix

Over the past year or so, I've looked at how TV's expanding universe represents gays and lesbians and working women. This piece about transgender representation feels like an important part of the same project.

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5:48pm

Mon April 14, 2014
News

NSA Coverage Garners Pulitzers For Post And Guardian

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 6:42 pm

Winners of the 2014 Pulitzer Prizes were announced Monday. The Washington Post and The Guardian were among the notable winners, commended for together breaking the news of NSA surveillance programs.

2:45pm

Tue April 8, 2014
Code Switch

Coming Out In Basketball: How Brittney Griner Found 'A Place Of Peace'

Originally published on Wed April 9, 2014 5:24 am

Brittney Griner puts up a shot against Japan during a 2013 preseason WNBA game in Phoenix.
Christian Petersen Getty Images

Brittney Griner is 23 years old, 6 feet 8 inches tall and one of the best female basketball players in the world. She was the WNBA top draft pick last year, and in college she set records for the most blocked shots in a season and the most career blocks in history — for male and female players. She's so good that the owner of a men's team — the Dallas Mavericks — has said he'd recruit her.

Now, Griner is also an author. She's co-written a new memoir, In My Skin, in which she describes being bullied and taunted as a kid for her height and athleticism.

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3:23am

Fri March 28, 2014
Movies

This Year, Biblical Films Are Fruitful And Multiplying

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 12:12 pm

The 2014 film Noah has stirred up the ire of some conservative Christians, who accuse the filmmakers of using a story about environmental catastrophe to push a message about climate change and conservation.
Niko Tavernise Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

There's a flood of biblical proportions this year in Hollywood: Noah, starring Russell Crowe, floats into theaters Thursday. It follows Son of God, another Bible-based movie released by 20th Century Fox. And later in 2014, we'll see Exodus, a 3-D epic based on the story of Moses from director Ridley Scott.

Why so many Bible movies in 2014? "It just has to be that God is moving. There's no other explanation for it," says Son of God producer Mark Burnett.

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5:09am

Fri March 21, 2014
Movie Interviews

From Action Hero To Teenage Nerd, Shailene Woodley Has Range

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 7:45 am

Shailene Woodley, pictured at this year's Independent Spirit Awards, stars in the forthcoming Divergent, a big-screen adaptation of the first book in Veronica Roth's dystopian trilogy.
Kevin Winter Getty Images

"I'm sorry you have to see my pancake face."

Those are among Shailene Woodley's first words as she opens the door to a suite in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. She's got a publicists' luncheon later in the day — otherwise, she explains, under absolutely no condition would she have worn makeup for an interview.

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3:26am

Fri March 14, 2014
Pop Culture

Forget Nancy Drew: Thanks To Fans, 'Veronica Mars' Is Back On The Case

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 5:03 pm

In the movie, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) is a recent law school grad living in New York when an old flame — Logan Echolls — calls her back to her home town of Neptune, Calif.
Robert Voets Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

When Rob Thomas created Veronica Mars, his show about a sharp-elbowed girl detective, he had an ulterior motive: He wanted to kill off the reigning queen of teenaged sleuths — one who's been around for more than 80 years.

"Nancy Drew," Thomas says, his soft-spoken affect barely betrayed by a trace of a snarl. "Like, I feel like she had her run."

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