John Nielsen Award

John Nielsen
John Nielsen was our head carpenter for 10 years before his death in 2003.  John was a creative problem solver, dedicated to his craft and to Theatre Ancaster. He was a leader who always worked hard to complete any job well and on time. The John Nielsen Award is presented annually to an individual on our production team who exemplifies John’s professionalism, knowledge, dedication and passion to the production work of Theatre Ancaster.

The nomination for such an award is prestigious, as the list of nominees suggests.

John Nielsen Award Recipients

Laura Bottrell Nielsen Award

Laura Bottrell, 2023

Nominees: Laura Bottrell, Lindsay Jones, Erin Bree Pierce, Roxana Waldes-Wice

Laura Bottrell is a long-time member of Theatre Ancaster who was selected as the recipient of Theatre Ancaster’s only annual award. The prestigious award celebrates the achievements and accomplishments of a member of Theatre Ancaster who, just like Theatre Ancaster’s first head carpenter, John Nielsen, has gone above and beyond to demonstrate professionalism, knowledge, dedication, and passion in the production work of Theatre Ancaster.

 Laura is a passionate teacher and leader at Theatre Ancaster. She leads our staff team in working with our youngest performers at our Jitterbugs program as well as serving on our Mainstage Production Committee, producing our biggest shows every year.

Laura makes every part of Theatre Ancaster better by enthusiastically and gracefully creating wonderful experiences for her students and our casts and crews. Theatre Ancaster is lucky to have Laura, and we invite you to celebrate her with us.

Bob Carle accepting Nielsen Award

Bob Carle, 2022

Nominees: Laura Bottrell, Bob Carle, Lindsay Jones, Erin Bree Pierce.

Bob has been with Theatre Ancaster since Jesus Christ Superstar in 2014 when he played the role of Annas. From that moment, Bob found a home with Theatre Ancaster and has since worn multiple hats within the company both on and off stage. In his short time with Theatre Ancaster, Bob has been a performer, assistant stage manager, stage manager, spotlight operator, producer, director, and served as secretary on our Board of Directors.

“Since 2014, I’ve considered Theatre Ancaster to be a second home. The people I’ve met have become family and the projects I’ve undertaken have been very rewarding. When I retired from teaching, I was looking for something to focus my time and efforts on. Theatre Ancaster has been that ‘thing’.”

Bob performed in several shows following his stage debut in Superstar – finally deciding to dip his toes into some behind-the-scenes action by assisting as a Stage Manager for the 2017 production of Spelling Bee. That same year, Bob again volunteered to be Stage Manager, this time for the mainstage hit, Annie. He has since directed TA’s first non-musical, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, stage-managed Oliver! and will be directing The Full Monty in 2023.

Work behind the scenes in a big theatre company like Theatre Ancaster does not always come with the same applause received by the cast on stage. However, it is people like Bob who are the most deserving of it, since Theatre Ancaster would not be able to put on the high calibre productions they are known for without the tireless commitment of dedicated volunteers. Bob will go to the end of the earth to make sure that his cast and crews are supported. He’s always the first one there, and the last person to leave at the end of rehearsal. His commitment to his teams and this company, along with his unwavering desire for excellence is what makes him a VIP with Theatre Ancaster.

Krys Croxall accepting Nielsen Award

Krys Croxall, 2021

Nominees: Laura Bottrell, Bob Carle, Krys Croxall, Erin Bree Pierce

Krys Croxall is a most deserving choice. She has been involved in every aspect of the work of Theatre Ancaster. She has been a producer, director, secretary to the Board of Directors and now treasurer. She has headed up a revision of the constitution for Theatre Ancaster and initiated popular shows such as The Christmas Radio Show with husband Al. Krys is also one of the founding directors for the new branch of Theatre Ancaster, The Classics Company, for those over 55.

“Being nominated before was wonderful, but being chosen is really special.”

Krys Croxall was a superintendent with the Hamilton Wentworth Board of Education for many years. “Since I retired, Theatre Ancaster has become my passion project. The company does wonderful work. It is a pleasure to serve and to be part of its growth and development. Theatre Ancaster is a great family. Thank you for giving me a place in it.”

Todd Rich accepting Nielsen Award

Todd Rich, 2020

Nominees: Laura Bottrell, Bob Carle, Krys Croxall, Erin Bree Pierce, Todd Rich

“Most of the people who attend Theatre Ancaster’s shows don’t know Todd’s face or know about the work that he does, but I assure you that Todd Rich’s fingerprints are all over every single one of the shows we produce each year,” said Sam Frisk, Theatre Ancaster’s Director of Youth Programming, as he introduced this year’s recipient of Theatre Ancaster’s John Nielsen Memorial Award for 2019-2020.  

Janet Delsey with Bibs and Susanne Nielsen

Janet Delsey, 2019

Nominees: Bob Carle, Krys Croxall, Lindsay Jones and Todd Rich

Michelle Chin, herself a Nielsen Award recipient, highlighted Delsey’s contributions to the crowd of supporters. “Jan is a Jack-of-all-trades and master of many in her 14 years with the company. She is a talent both on stage and off.”

The playbills of most Theatre Ancaster shows feature Jan not just once, but often twice or more. She created and manages the Theatre Ancaster website, welcomes patrons as part of the front-of-house teams, helps with props and has created posters and programs. In 2012, Jan co-developed the youth programs online registration system and continues to provide database support for the registration process each term. She has also served as secretary on the board of directors. Jan founded the Theatre Ancaster Chorus in 2013 and has been its program director ever since.

“Jan is a lovely, kind and supportive person, which is a big reason for the success of the shows she is involved in,” said Chin. “She does whatever it takes and is always willing to go the extra mile to make things happen. I cannot imagine Theatre Ancaster without her.” Gord Conroy who chairs the Nielsen Award Committee explains: “The Nielsen Award salutes a member of Theatre Ancaster’s production team who is a leader, like John was, who works hard, and by example, encourages and motivates others. That certainly fits Jan Delsey.”

Angela and Jim Broadley accepting Nielsen Award

Angela and Jim Broadley, 2018

Nominees: Angela and Jim Broadley, Bob Carle, Todd Rich,  Roxana Waldes-Wice

“Angela and Jim Broadley are a fantastic team. They are welcoming and positive as well as being dedicated and talented. They wear many hats behind the scenes with Theatre Ancaster and engage cast and production teams alike with their infectious passion for theatre to make it a wonderful collaborative experience for everyone.”

Michelle Chin and Martin Suichies accepting Nielsen Award

Michelle Chin and Martin Suichies, 2017

Nominees: Michelle Chin, Janet Delsey, Frank Shackleton, Martin Suichies, Zachary Viola

Michelle Chin and husband Martin Suichies are the first joint winners of Theatre Ancaster’s prestigious award that commemorates the work of the late John Nielsen.

The couple first got involved in Theatre Ancaster when they were looking for musical theatre opportunities for their children, Allison and Katrina.

Joanne Baker accepting Nielsen Award

Joanne Baker, 2016

Nominees: Joanne Baker, Laura Bottrell, Michelle Chin, Mary Jonker, Michelle Smith

“We have grown from an informal group of friends putting on a show to our significant community presence today,” said Croxall. “It’s time to honour the countless contributions Joanne has made…”

Tina Rath accepting Nielsen Award

Tina Rath, 2015

Nominees: Tristan Bernardi, Laura Bottrell, Janet Delsey, Tina Rath, Michelle Smith

Tina Rath was presented with the John Nielsen Memorial Award at Theatre Ancaster’s annual meeting and barbecue. The award was presented by Bibs Nielsen and her daughter, Suzanne.

“This is an incredible honour,” said Rath. “It’s wonderful to be able to be a part of this company and all that it has accomplished.”

Colin Lapsley accepting Nielsen Award

Colin Lapsley, 2014

Nominees: Jim Hemrica, Colin Lapsley, Nancy Ravoi

Colin’s work and leadership with Theatre Ancaster has been prodigious for some twenty years. He’s been music director for countless shows, arranging music and directing bands for Theatre Ancaster performances at the Theatre Auditorium at Ancaster High, Carmen’s Banquet Centre, Music at Fieldcote, The Old Mill, on the road, and of course, at The Old Firehall Arts Centre. And Lapsley did all that while fronting his own professional band that toured successfully throughout Canada and the U.S.

In addition, Colin has been Theatre Ancaster’s resident sound engineer providing quality sound for Theatre Ancaster performances. Lapsley researches and purchases sound equipment, and creates the sound design and mixing for most Theatre Ancaster shows. In addition, he’s put his engineering skills to work (Queens Engineering 1995) on occasion for Theatre Ancaster. He has designed sets for shows such as Joseph in which he also played the lead, and has helped build them as well.

Colin admired John greatly, and appreciated his mentorship. “I can say with confidence that he was the first person to make me feel like my chosen career was a vocation and a trade, not a hobby. This was an important distinction for an aspiring artist. To this day, I say thanks to John Nielsen for the vote of confidence, and to Theatre Ancaster for keeping his valuable ethics alive.”

Sam Frisk accepting Nielsen Award

Sam Frisk, 2013

Nominees: Krista Cranston, Sam Frisk, Agnes Niewiadomski, Lynda Switzer

“I’m extremely honoured to have been considered, let alone chosen, for the John Nielsen Award. There are so many people who do so much so cheerfully for Theatre Ancaster that I really am humbled to join those who have been selected to receive this award in the past,” said Mr. Frisk.

Sam has been a strong youth leader and instructor and lighting production head since he emerged from Redeemer to work on My Fair Lady in 2007. Sam works with children, teens and adults equally well, and treats everyone with respect. “I remember how impressed I was with his work with our students at Hill Park the first year of the Art Smart program in 2009,” said Al Croxall. “Sam patiently, and carefully instructed the crew on the care and maintenance of the new lighting fixtures and other equipment we had ordered as part of the Hill Park auditorium upgrade. The students were impressed by what he said and how he said it. He subsequently took over that program, and the Stage 3 Young Company for teens, and does a great job working with students and adults alike.”

As lighting director of our main stage shows, Sam is constantly under pressure from the directors to provide smarter and snazzier lighting, pushing himself to rival professional productions on our amateur stage. He keeps his head in spite of power outages, fires, and fire alarms. And he is always learning with both new software and hardware.

In everything he does, Sam invests himself totally, putting forth his skills, patience and knowledge to assist the team in making our many theatre projects the best they can be.

Brent Wice accepting Nielsen Award

Brent Wice, 2012

Nominees: Krista Cranston, Sam Frisk, Colin Lapsley, Brent Wice

“I’m overwhelmed, I’m really quite speechless,” said Brent Wice after receiving the John Nielsen Memorial Award at the annual meeting and barbecue of Theatre Ancaster.

“It’s a great honour to receive the Nielsen Award,” said Wice. “Though I never had a chance to work with Mr. Nielsen, I know some of what he did for Theatre Ancaster and the community.”

Randy Osatchuk accepting Nielsen Award

Randy Osatchuk, 2011

Nominees: Randy Osatchuk, Nancy Ravoi, Brent Wice

“This is a great honour,” said Mr. Osatchuk, “Theatre Ancaster is such a creative community force with such supportive leadership and volunteers, I’m very pleased indeed to be part of it all, and to receive this award.”

Randy Osatchuk, like John Nielsen, is a creative leader who always has another way to solve a problem of design. Doris Holder who has worked with Mr. Osatchuk for many years explained his contribution to Theatre Ancaster shows this way.

“Randy has been generously donating his artistic and teaching skills to Theatre Ancaster for more than a decade. He has designed and supervised set decoration for most of our Fall and Spring shows, creating stunning backdrops and imaginative moveable pieces.”

“Randy uses a perfect blend of authority and friendship,” added Doris Holder. “His mentorship fits well with Theatre Ancaster’s mandate to bring musical theatre to the next generation.”

Melanie Barlow accepting Nielsen Award

Melanie Barlow, 2010

Nominees: Melanie Barlow, Laura Bottrell, Whitney Lane

Melanie Barlow is certainly a deserving recipient of the Nielsen Award. She has headed up the Theatre Ancaster Front of House team since 2003, though she worked on the team before that. She has also appeared on stage, and been den mother for young family members who have been part of productions as well. Next year, Ms Barlow will take on a new role working with Theatre Ancaster publicity and advertising. Since 2003 Ms Barlow and her team have welcomed close to 50,000 patrons to Theatre Ancaster shows, and looked after individual needs, with many smiles and cheery hellos.

“I love teamwork. We are the front lines for Theatre Ancaster, and we try to be prepared for any eventuality. We’re all volunteers,” said Ms Barlow, “and I love to see our younger people and teens volunteer and work with the adults. It’s wonderful.”

Harvey Elms, who nominated Ms Barlow for her work and commitment, had this to say. “Melanie makes sure everything she has to do with is looked after. In addition, I know she’s been involved with school council work, Theatre Ancaster school matinees, and heads up the volunteers at Ancaster Community Services. And when there’s a Theatre Ancaster event at the Old Firehall, Melanie is front and centre.”

Harvey Elms accepting Nielsen Award

Harvey Elms, 2009

Nominees: Randy Osatchuk, Nancy Ravoi, Brent Wice

“It was Harvey’s time,” said Gord Conroy, Theatre Ancaster’s president. “Everyone feels Harvey deserves this award.. We all admire Harvey’s commitment and hard work, his willingness to help and his easy going manner.”

“It’s really an honour,” said Mr. Elms, “but it’s an award to be shared with my team members. You can’t build a full Theatre Ancaster set without a team.”

Harvey’s team includes Frank and Marilyn Shackleton, Bob Ferry, Ben Klunder and Bob Penny. “They are all great people,” said Mr. Elms. “Someone always has a solution to a problem to make sure the sets are strong, multi-purpose, moveable and modular. We’ve already started thinking about South Pacific for the fall.”

Mr. Elms always seems to be involved in a project. He has taken leadership roles on many sets for Theatre Ancaster’s main stage productions, but has also been involved with the summer school, and both the Stage 2 Jr. Broadway shows and the Stage 3 Young Company shows for teens.

“Harvey’s got a full-time volunteer job,’ explained Mr. Conroy. “He’s always busy. He leads by example, and is always thinking of new resources that would be useful to the set builders to make their jobs easier and their time more productive.”

Bob Penny with Nielsen Award

Photo June 2024

Bob Penny, 2008

Nominees: Melanie Barlow, Harvey Elms, Jim Hemrica, Bob Penny

“I am particularly flattered and honoured to receive the Nielsen Award,” said Bob. “I worked with John for many years, and he was not just a hard worker, but a thinker and a craftsman. John always said, ‘Think twice, cut once,’ and that’s what we try to do.”

Bob Penny is certainly a deserving recipient of the Nielsen Award. He has headed up the Theatre Ancaster set-building team since 2003 after John’s death, and before that he had worked as Mr. Nielsen’s assistant for a number of shows. “Building modules that fit together and that can be re-used is part of what we have learned to do,” said Bob. And then he added with a smile, “And no matter what we’re told at the start, there are always extras to look after.”

“Our set-building team works well together. We each have ideas that can help the project. We anticipate needs, and we work hard to avoid mistakes. We’re all volunteers and I’m always amazed at how willing our team is to arrange their lives to be able to make this commitment to our community.”

Bob explained how each group of people in Theatre Ancaster depends on each other for a job well done. “The on stage team needs the costume and set teams, and the lighting and sound expertise. These people in turn need the creative design team. And all the teams from actors to musicians and stage production workers need the support of publicity and box office people to get the word out. And then we need the support of the school and the community. It’s all interconnected. It really does take a community to raise a musical.”


Jim Langfrey

Jim Langfrey, 2007

Nominees: Melanie Barlow, Jim Langfrey, Stephanie Garant

“What a wonderful honour,” said Mr. Langferey. “John was such a hard worker, and so ingenious in finding better ways to do a job.  That’s what we aim for in our work with The Box Office in Theatre Ancaster. This award is a testament to the quality service that all the members of the box office team contribute.  Linda Granholm is my invaluable assistant, and I want to thank her and all the team members for their ongoing commitment.”

 Jim Langfrey is certainly a deserving recipient of the Nielsen Award. He has headed up the Theatre Ancaster Box Office since 1997. During that decade, he has handled more than 50,000 ticket sales, with very few complaints.  He has also streamlined the Box Office work to provide better service for the patrons.

Lynda Switzer, a member of the box office team, had this to say of Mr. Langfrey.Jim dedicates tremendous personal time above and beyond the call of duty in order to ensure that all the customers of Theatre Ancaster are attended to with care, patience and professionalism. He brings his business experience to the box office, and makes sure everything runs smoothly right down to the schedules of all the box office volunteers that he works out and organizes to suit their needs. Jim is at every show and front and centre with customers, working his ‘magic’ with his friendly, professional respect. Jim represents Theatre Ancaster in the highest manner.”

 Jim Langfrey was a member of the Board of Directors for Theatre Ancaster, and has also been involved with community outreach work as a member of Ryerson United in Ancaster for more than 35 years. Like his father who had received a community award for his service in Brantford, Mr. Langfrey simply believes in giving back to the community. He smiles.  “It’s a family tradition.”

Nupi Gokhale with Nielsen Award

Photo June 2024

Nupi Gokhale, 2006

Nominees: Jim Langfrey, Nupi Gokhale, Bob Penny

“When you need something done and done well, you go to Nupi. Nupi is creative and energetic, and most of all, she embodies all those leadership
qualities that the John Nielsen Award represents,” said Ralf Hakenberg.

Nupi Lapsley is a member of the Board of Directors for Theatre Ancaster, and the Administrative Director of Theatre Ancaster’s Stage 2, The Summer Music Theatre Program for children and young people from ages 3 to 15. She also produces shows for Theatre Ancaster, acts on stage and works backstage in stage management. She helps coordinate Theatre Ancaster’s popular Christmas shows, and she is looking forward to directing as well.

“I’ve never quite figured out how Nupi does everything,” said Gord Conroy, “and she does it so well, with a smile on her face, and a spring in her step, that we all just marvel.”

“I’m very honoured,” said Nupi. “John contributed so much to Theatre Ancaster and our community that all of this is a bit overwhelming.”


Allison Osterman with Nielsen Award

Photo June 2024

Allison Osterman, 2005

Nominees: June French, Allison Osterman, Mardie Panabaker

Allison Osterman came to Theatre Ancaster during the time leading up to The Music Man in November 2002. Costume Head Veronica Watkins asked Allison if she wanted to be involved with costumes…but she’d never made a shirt. Instead, she volunteered as a milliner…she made wonderful turn-of-the-century hats and bonnets for all the ladies in the cast that were the hit of the show. “They were spectacular,” remembers Ms Watkins, “but more than that, they reflected the personalities of the different characters.” Since that debut, Allison’s creativity has worked wonders in all of Theatre Ancaster’s major productions.

Allison’s work for Theatre Ancaster goes beyond contributions to the on-stage productions. Allison is an interior designer and her knowledge of colour and design skills have received a real work-out during the year-long renovations to The Old Firehall Arts Centre. “Allison has been front and centre with the choosing of the colours and materials, as well as the design of the floor,” said Gord Conroy. “Allison not only made formal presentations to the Board of Directors on a number of occasions, she supervised much of the work and also pitched in and did some plastering and sanding.”

“I am very honoured to receive this award,” said Allison. “I don’t quite know what to say.”


Jim Hemrica

Jim Hemrica, 2004

Nominees: Jim Hemrica, Meghan Speakman, Veronica Watkins

Jim Hemrica is a special person. So was John Nielsen who is honoured and remembered by this award. Consider these words. Hard Worker. Determined. Dedicated. Responsible. Knowledgeable. Helpful. It’s impossible when you hear these words to know whether you’re talking about Jim or John, his friend and colleague, who died in 2003. Jim admired John. He admired his skill, craftsmanship, and willingness to take on a task and never give up. As everyone knows, John built huge pyramids and whole towns as sets for Theatre Ancaster so all of The Ancaster Community could enjoy them. Jim helped put them up, take them down, and as stage manager, and crew director, moved them around with skill and precision during every performance.

“Jim works well with everyone. He gets people to work together, and he commands respect without any fireworks,” said Doug Holder, one of the members of Theatre Ancaster who put Jim’s name forward for the award. “Jim makes them feel part of the team.”

Jim does things. He gets things done. He doesn’t talk about them much. He just quietly goes about his job. Nevin Grant who also nominated Jim explained it this way. “Jim always seems to pop up when any kind of help is required, and in a most gracious manner. He’s a real cheerleader, too, always assuring people that everything is going fine and not to worry.”

Jim’s a man of many skills. Professional Nurse. Stage Manager. Organizer and leader of work parties. Creative problem solver. Jim has been doing this work with Theatre Ancaster in his quiet, competent way for a decade.