Meet a Dad - William Harris, Director of SHU Community Theater - FairfieldMoms

If you have driven downtown recently you have seen the amazing lights from the SHU Theatre! It is back up and in action and more beautiful then before. They are now running movies old and new, hosting events and behind it all is the Director Bill Harris. An amazing person for the job, friendly and family man we needed more people to know about!

Where are you originally from and how long have you been in Fairfield?

I was born in Philadelphia and grew up there and later in Manhattan.  Like many, once I got married we moved north and settled in Fairfield county almost 20 years ago.


Tell us about your Family!

Obsessed with work early in my career, I was late to the marriage game, so only have 1 son but what we lack in numbers, he makes up in size as he is 6’10” tall, which is basically like feeding and clothing 2 kids.


One thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I have a really eclectic taste in music, used to have season tickets to the Met, love live jazz and huge fan of Frank Sinatra, (who my mother loved), and have seen him perform at least 10 times.


One thing you wish someone would have told you about fatherhood?

I guess I wish I had known how challenging fatherhood is as most of the portrayals are dads as supermen.  That may be the perception we perpetuate, especially for our kids, but I’ve found it enormously humbling to try to live up to that role.  From the moment the kid showed up, actually in the months leading up to his birth, I slowly realized that my life was not my own.  It was a scary realization until I began to understand that with a family, my life was now much more than just mine, we were sharing all of our lives – and that’s pretty cool.


What’s your favorite thing about raising a family in Fairfield?

Both the town and the surrounding county have amazing resources, cultural attractions and education, or course.  The region is beautiful and the lifestyle is safe and inclusive.  Growing up and working in the NYC for so long, I love the proximity to the city, but love the fact that with all of the museums, libraries, parks, beaches and entertainment available here, we have it all in our own backyards.


Best dad hack that makes your life easier?

Took me a while, but when old enough I think it’s always good to let your kids take over some grown-up duties.  Not only is it a teachable moment, but it helps lighten the load.  I got a full year and a half of lawn mowing before my son caught on it was really a chore.  Once he started driving, he became the family Uber and I’m working on his barbeque skills, (he loves steak), to share some of the grilling duties.  They need to learn all this stuff anyway and the more used they get to helping, the better chance they’ll take better care of you in the future.


Tell us about your business, when & why you decided to start the new Shu theater? 

The last movie I saw at the original Community Theatre was “Sponge Bob Square Pants”, with my son 15 years ago and it was a heartbreaker when it closed – a decade ago – and sat as an abandoned eyesore in the middle of town, even as many efforts to preserve it were ongoing, as it could have easily be turned into another kind of business or parking lot.  Thankfully, Kleban Properties purchased the building and Sacred Heart University stepped up to lease, rebuild and operate the new SHU Community Theatre as a state-of-the-art Cinema, Performance and Educational venue, restoring the Crown Jewel to the town square.  


What do you love about your job?  Challenges you face?

I grew up with a darkroom in my basement and used to shoot little films and have screenings on my porch, and have worked in television and film for many years, so I come by all this quite honestly.  I still love that part, the creative, programming and entertainment industry and this allows me to leverage all that experience and passion programming events at the SHU Theatre.  But, the biggest challenge is building awareness and getting people back to see all the amazing things we’re doing.  The Theatre’s been closed for a decade, which is a whole generation of residents and as much as there is enormous nostalgia – there’s no existing patron base, or even muscle memory … no one says, “I wonder what’s going on at the SHU tonight?”  We’ve got to change that to make it a top-of-mind consideration when people are thinking of what to do in town.


If you weren’t working in this industry, what do you think you would be doing today?

After retiring from my corporate life – most recently as an exec running A&E Television and The History Channel – I started an independent production company, launched an Independent film festival, (we will have a new one in Fairfield based at the Theatre), and continued teaching as an adjunct and producer-in-residence in the film & television graduate program at Sacred Heart.  So, I’m never too far away from the industry, but if I truly disconnected I’d still be in the arts, writing and maybe even trying my hand at music … or just puttering in the garden with a cool drink.


Best advice for dads who experience the inevitable guilt handling a career and helping support a family?

Just accept guilt as part of the job description.  There’s always something that doesn’t get done, or doesn’t get done well enough.  Give yourself a break, even dads are only human.  Even Superman need a little time in his artic man cave.  With all the demands and challenges, take a little time to care for yourself, so you’re better able to care for your family.  If anything good has come from this long, horrible year it’s the fact that our perspectives have been somewhat recalibrated.   I think most agree, life, health and family should come first – then career.  If you don’t have the first 3, you’ll never be successful in the last.  Balancing is never easy, but the priorities have become clearer and I hope we don’t lose sight of that important lesson.


Who has most influenced you to be the father that you are today?

In a strange, almost counter-intuitive way my relationship with my mother has really shaped my views of fatherhood.  She, even more than my Dad, helped me appreciate the totality of the role and responsibilities of being a father.


What advice would you share with a new dad or other dads?

Enjoy every moment you can.  The sleepless nights, skinned knees, tortured homework and expensive braces.  It’s never going to be easy, but it absolutely is going to be well worth it.  Other than motherhood (sorry guys) being a good father can be the most amazing and greatest accomplishment in life – you just have to appreciate it and enjoy the ride.



We love supporting local businesses – favorite places in Fairfield to…

Have Dinner with Family:  Sinclair

Grab a Drink with Friends: Old Post Tavern

Have a Date Night: Fairfield Theatre Company

Spend time together as a Family: Beardsley Zoo

Outside Activities:  Beach Time

Grab coffee:  Las Vetas

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