Historic Thalian Hall Appoints Shane Fernando as New CEO

November 17, 2023

Historic Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts Appoints Shane Fernando as New CEO

Wilmington, NC, November 14, 2023:  After conducting a nationwide search, the Board of Trustees at Historic Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts (THCPA) is thrilled to announce the appointment of Shane Fernando as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective January 2024. With an outstanding track record of innovation and collaboration in the Business, Non-Profit, Education, and the Arts & Culture sectors, Fernando brings a wealth of experience and expertise that will build upon the work of the former Executive Director, Tony Rivenbark’s 42-year tenure at THCPA.

Fernando is a well-known and highly respected, visionary leader with unparalleled executive leadership experience who has been serving in the public and arts administration fields for over twenty years. With his strategic acumen, coupled with a deep understanding of and passion for the arts, the new CEO will play a pivotal role in navigating THCPA through the ever-changing landscape of the performing arts, our community, and stewardship of Historic Thalian Hall in collaboration with our community partners.

Having served as the VP of Advancement and the Arts at Cape Fear Community College and as the Executive and Artistic Director of the Wilson Center, Fernando successfully led dynamic teams, resulting in impressive growth and service to the community contributing to the Wilmington area’s visibility as an Arts Destination.

He previously served at UNC Wilmington, as Director of Campus Life Arts and Programs and taught as an adjunct faculty member in the UNCW Department of Communication Studies. Fernando earned a communication studies degree and a master’s degree in public administration from UNC Wilmington. After graduation, he moved to Washington, DC to work in the U.S. Senate. He currently serves as a Trustee for Historic Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts and is also the programming consultant for the Hall, overseeing the booking of the Main Attractions Series. Fernando continues to serve on national, regional, state, and local consortiums, academic, and non-profit organizations supporting dance, education, and other aspects of the performing arts.

Fernando is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).  He has been a director, property master, and actor in over 150 Wilmington theatre productions.

“I am humbled to take the reins of one of the oldest and most cherished historic theaters in our nation, our beloved Thalian Hall,” says Shane Fernando. “For over 165 years, she has captured the hearts of generations, including my own. It was life-changing to have my first experiences as a technician and performer on her stage over 30 years ago, and to learn so much from my dear friend and mentor, Tony. As we look forward to our crown jewel, Thalian Hall’s next chapter, I am honored to be coming home to be a part of building her future. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the community for its trust and faith in me for this responsibility.”

Fernando’s appointment comes at a crucial juncture for THCPA as the Staff, Board of Trustees, Volunteers, Patrons, and Community Partners look forward to working with the new CEO. His vision for the future, strong commitment to good stewardship of Historic Thalian Hall, customer satisfaction, and dedication to fostering a culture of collaboration and inclusion align perfectly with the vision and values of THCPA.

“We are thrilled to welcome Shane Fernando as our new CEO,” said Terry Espy, President of the Board of Trustees of THCPA. “His proven leadership and transformative approach will undoubtedly steer Historic Thalian Hall toward even greater success. We have full confidence in his ability to drive innovation, preserve Historic Thalian Hall, and lead THCPA to achieve new milestones.”

In addition to welcoming the new CEO, the entire THCPA team extends their heartfelt appreciation to Interim Executive Director, Rob Zapple, for his exceptional leadership and contributions to THCPA during the search for our new CEO and for his ongoing efforts.


About Historic Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts:

The mission of the Historic Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts, Inc. is to present a broad range of educational, entertainment, and cultural programs; to be a major regional resource for quality spaces, equipment, and services; and to preserve the symbol of Wilmington’s cultural heritage for future generations.

For media inquiries or more information about Historic Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts, please contact:

Terry Espy

President, Board of Trustees

Historic Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts


Phone: (910) 270-1711