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Ten Minutes With Director of the Sacred Heart Community Theater–Bill Harris

Bill Harris, a Sacred Heart University adjunct professor of communications and media studies, producer-in-residence and member of the university’s board of visitors, has been appointed the new director of the Sacred Heart University Community Theater in Fairfield. Harris, who has a long career in television and film and is also co-owner of Pyewackitt Productions, and general manager of the Ridgefield Independent Film Festival, will oversee the 100-year-old theater’s restoration and reopening in 2020.

Can you tell us more about what we can expect to see at the SHU theater?
It’s an exciting opportunity to restore and reimagine an iconic landmark and bring great films, stage, and community events back to downtown Fairfield. We will, of course, have all kinds of movies, from major motion pictures and art house films you won’t see in the multiplexes, to independent, foreign, and retrospective classics, as well as, some educational programs tied to the university and other local schools, libraries, and museums. It will be available for outside bookings, performers, rentals, and important community events. We’ll also be home base for a new Fairfield Film Festival, which will host events throughout the year.

When is the grand opening?
My goal is to host some awareness events and special preview presentations during the year, with a grand opening mid-fall, 2020.

How are you handling maintaining the historic character of the theater?
We’re cognizant that we are stewards of an iconic landmark theater, and the community’s deep emotional, nostalgic attachment to it, and in particular, the marquee. But, obviously, it, and indeed nearly all of the theater is being rebuilt, floor to ceiling. That said, we will retain some of the familiar design elements and have done some painstaking work to preserve and restore some truly historic architectural features, including the original stage proscenium, balcony, ticket booth and marquee, which will be reconstructed very closely, if not exactly identical to the original.

Will there be special programming for kids?
We will have free after-school screenings and activities, some tied to curriculum, some just good old fun. We’ll also have some weekend kids and family programs and plan to introduce gaming and e-sports Tournaments.

Will you have food and alcohol?
We will have treats, both nostalgic and new age at the candy bar, along with fresh gourmet popcorn with real butter. Other than parties and private receptions, we will not be serving alcohol. Fortunately, there are many fantastic bars and restaurants all around town to make it a perfect movie-and-dinner date night.

Are you displacing any of the tenants on Unquowa?
We are only taking possession and operating the theater itself through a ten year lease. SHU does not own the building or have any other business relationship or control of any of the other merchants and tenants, or interest in displacing anyone. We are not the landlord, we’re just good neighbors.

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