Sacred Heart University has appointed Bill Harris, adjunct professor of communications and media studies, producer-in-residence and member of the university’s Board of Visitors as the new director of the Sacred Heart University Community Theater. Harris, who also is executive director and co-owner of Pyewackitt Productions, will oversee the 100-year-old theater’s restoration and reopening.
“As stewards of a century old legacy, it’s an incredible opportunity to bring an exceptional film, performance and cultural enrichment venue back to downtown Fairfield. We’ll be presenting great movies, live appearances, performances and events, all while extending Sacred Heart’s educational mission and civic outreach. The theater will provide, not just entertainment, but also meaningful career experience for students and residents alike, along with various engagement opportunities for our patrons and supporters to participate in the rebirth of this iconic venue,” said Harris.
The University will create a new premier cinema, performing arts, education and social hub at the historic site on the corner of Post and Unquowa roads. It will offer high-profile lectures, films, concerts, performances, and community events in the theater, as well as reception and meeting spaces in the lobby and a planned media center.
“Quite honestly, this is a life-long dream that my whole career has led me to. I grew up with a darkroom in my basement and used to shoot little 8mm films on the playgrounds and have screenings on my porch,” Harris said. “When I retired from the corporate world, I had first planned to open an independent theater, but I was drawn into a number of passion-project films and teaching assignments, and the film festival, but it was still a dream. So, while I’ve never been a big believer in fate, I am a fan of serendipity. I couldn’t be more thrilled for myself, the University and Fairfield and the surrounding communities for this opportunity, as I know everyone is really excited and committed to the success of this new venture.”
Plans call for a full-scale renovation of the theater, which opened in 1920 and closed in 2011. Work will be complete in 2020, in time to celebrate the theater’s 100th anniversary.
A television programming executive with 30+ years of broadcast, cable and independent film experience, Harris has worked with ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS and spent 16 years as head of programming and production for the A&E television networks (A&E, History, Lifetime and Biography channels). He joined A&E in 1994 overseeing documentary programming, including the development, launch and unprecedented success of the Emmy Award-winning BIOGRAPHY® series. A multiple Emmy, Telly, Ace, Cine and Vision Award winner, he has been inducted into the National Association of Minorities in Cable (NAMIC) Hall of Fame and was named a Cable Maverick by the Cable Center in 2008. More recently, Bill was executive producer of The Buddy System and on two Oscar®-qualifying documentaries—Digital Dharma and Trial By Fire: Lives Reforged.
Bill is also the general manager of the Ridgefield Independent Film Festival, which serves as model for a new Fairfield Film Festival that will launch next year with the Sacred Heart University Community Theater serving as its home base.
A graduate of St. John’s University, a long-time Connecticut resident, Bill lives with his wife and creative partner, Megan, and their son, Jack, in Wilton.