Donor Spotlight: Carol and Rick McNeel

Carol and Rick McNeel have been proud supporters of Carolina Performing Arts since its inception. After Memorial Hall’s grand renovation in 2005 and CPA’s launch as a major university performing arts presenter, the McNeels jumped at the opportunity to name two seats in the Beasley-Curtis Auditorium and have never regretted their decision.

Great travelers who have visited many corners of this world—from the Northwest Passage to Antarctica, Burma, and Cuba—they are just as curious when it comes to the arts. From Curlew River (Benjamin Britten’s church parable starring the inimitable Ian Bostridge) in 2015, which they sponsored, to Yo-Yo Ma, the Bolshoi Ballet, and, most recently, Plastic Bag Store at CURRENT, Carol and Rick are open to all kinds of artistic experiences. Rick’s favorites are the more traditional, much-loved works of the canon, while Carol delights in such experiences as CPA’s presentation of the National Theatre of Scotland’s The Strange Undoing of Prudentia Hart, conceived as “an evening of anarchic theater, live music and strange goings-on.” Put on at Top of the Hill, patrons tore up paper and tossed it into the air to simulate snow during the performance.

Their respective exposure to the arts growing up was minimal, Carol says, but once her love for the arts was sparked in college, it flourished and grew. “Many of my friends had different favorites, and I experienced a great variety with them.”

The decision to support Carolina Performing Arts back in 2005 was an easy one: “We were basically new in town and were anxious to get involved with the arts, and to get to know our community. CPA filled that need, as it is not just a one-size-fits-all kind of undertaking. The amazing talent, from the famous to the lesser known that come to visit, is just incredible.”

Every year, the McNeels look forward to browsing the season brochure, seeking out the particularly new and innovative. They are very pleased with the direction CPA is heading, especially the organization’s focus on changing the ways audiences experience art, as well as the ways in which the artists themselves interact with our community. Remarking upon their recent decision to become performance benefactors for a performance by Pedja Mužijević and UNC Chamber Singers, Carol said, “We were excited about the opportunity to support Pedja Mužijević and his vision for a more immersive, more intimate chamber music experience at CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio.”

With a soft spot for the unconventional and thought-provoking, Carol named October’s An Enemy of the People as one of her favorite performances of the 18/19 season thus far. Schaubühne Berlin’s staging of Henrik Ibsen’s classic yet timely drama broke down the fourth wall and engaged the audience in discussion in the middle of the play—just the kind of innovative interpretive approach that truly excites Carol and Rick.

The McNeels’ commitment to supporting innovative artistic excellence led them to create an endowment designed to help Carolina Performing Arts think outside of traditional performance conventions and reimagine ways of presenting. Their gift will allow CPA to reshape how audiences experience live music and theater of all types and genres. CPA is deeply grateful for supporters like the McNeels who enable us to keep pushing the envelope of what arts presenting means today and to rethink the ways in which audiences experience the performing arts.

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