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'Stories give us both a window into other people's lives and hold a mirror up to our own experiences'


Fourth in a series: During GivingTuesday, CityView Today is spotlighting a few of the 79 nonprofit agencies supported by the Cumberland Community Foundation’s annual observance of the global day of generosity. Make your gift here before 5 p.m. on November 29th to have it amplified by a $550,000 match.

TODAY: We speak with Ella Wrenn, the managing director of Cape Fear Regional Theatre.

CITYVIEW: Why is your organization’s work vital to the people you serve?

ELLA WRENN: Telling and listening to stories is essential to our shared humanity. Stories give us both a window into other people's lives and hold a mirror up to our own experiences. As a child, experiencing live arts cultivates empathy, sparks creativity, and encourages collaboration. Coming together in a room of people laughing, feeling, and sharing is a powerful human experience that makes us feel part of something bigger and more deeply connected to our communities.

How does what you do benefit the community as a whole?

CFRT brings more than 50,000 people and more than 20,000 children and youth together each year around the power of live theatre. We know that world-class art shouldn't be a world away, and we're proud to make live theatre available and accessible to our community. From school groups who attend 10 performances at the theatre, to our CFRTeen Tour which takes performances based around popular children's books directly into elementary schools, to our vibrant mainstage productions, CFRT's myriad programs offer a place for inspiration, community, and connection. 

Tell us about your operation, and what your annual budget allows you to do — and how you make decisions about what gets left out if there’s a budget shortfall…

CFRT impacts the same number of people as organizations like PlayMakers and North Carolina Theatre for half or one-third of their budgets. The difference is made up by the sweat equity of our incredible, dedicated staff and the committed excellence of our artists and creatives. CFRT's budget is approximately 50% earned, 50% contributed, making the support of individuals in the community essential to our operations. In the post-pandemic era, the American Theatre has been in crisis (you can find coverage of it in The New York Times as well as other smaller publications) and industry news is marked by reductions, layoffs, and even closures as ticket buying trends change and digital media becomes ever more robust and accessible. At CFRT, we are deeply grateful for the incredible support of our community who have embraced this season and our work at this critical moment, allowing us to keep bringing a full array of programs, shows and experiences to life. 

How does the financial boost you get from the Cumberland Community Foundation make a difference in the life of your organization?

The way that Cumberland Community Foundation has imagined and structured its GivingTuesday Campaign is an incredible tool for nonprofits throughout our community. For CFRT, it has really helped leverage end-of-year giving and created an exciting opportunity to engage with new donors. We are so grateful to CCF and all of the matching fund donors who make this incredible program possible!

What’s your message to those who are considering supporting the Foundation? Why should they be a part of GivingTuesday and support the campaign?

GivingTuesday creates an amazing opportunity not just to have your gifts amplified to the greater good of organizations you like to support, but also makes giving to numerous nonprofits easy and fun (as easy and fun as shopping for gifts online!). The catalog illustrates the magnificent work that 79 nonprofits are doing, and the campaign highlights the incredible generosity of this community. There's no better time or way to maximize your philanthropy this holiday season and create a long-lasting, local impact with your gift.