Thurmond Whatley isn’t new to the executive director position of the Aiken Community Playhouse, or ACP, board of directors; but with his second appointment to the role, he said the learning curve is a steep one.
“It’s not a brand new experience for me. But if you’re not in it day by day, it takes some time to readjust,” he said. “I’m catching up and making sure we keep our connections with people and staying on task with current projects.”
An Aiken County native, Whatley went to college at USC Aiken and USC Columbia and then spent seven years as a reporter for the Aiken Standard.
During those college years, around 1976, Whatley fell in love with the Playhouse. Once he began working at the Standard, Whatley said he was able to continue working with the Playhouse and eventually, it grew into a passion.
“I quickly started enjoying both the theatrical side and technical side of the theater,” he explained. “You bump into people from all walks of life and whether you’re an executive or a worker, none of that matters. We’re all here to do a show.”
Although Whatley started out on the theatrical side of the curtain, once the Playhouse moved to the URS building from Virginia Acres Park back in 2002, he began transitioning over to the administrative side.
These days, Thurmond said his “performing” is more in the classrooms where he teaches students or in board meetings where he helps plan activities.
“Hopefully, before I age out of the game, I’ll make it back to the stage and be able to perform again for an audience,” he said.
When asked about his vision for the Playhouse, Whatley humbly said his role is not about one person’s vision but rather coordinating the work of the board of directors.
He explained that his job is to catch the inquiries, problems and concerns and relay those messages to the board for evaluation.
“My philosophy has always been that in this type of position, you have to be a servant to the board, the members and audience,” Whatley added. “We have an excellent group of people and it’s really impressive that volunteers run a facility this large and complex. So I just want to continue that work.”
Whatley is taking over the position after former director, Mike Gibbons, announced he was moving to Charleston due to a new job offer.
Derrek Asberry is the SRS beat reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the paper since June 2013. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.