The 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.

2020 Recipient - Todd Rich

Tod Rich with Nielsen Award

“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.  The award was announced and presented during this year’s online Annual Meeting for Theatre Ancaster.  Several dozen people were present virtually to celebrate this year’s achievements, lament the difficulties due to Covid-19, and cheer on Todd and the rest of the nominees for the award.

Todd Rich leads the Marketing Team at Theatre Ancaster, along with his right-hand man, Neal Miller.  Everything from the posters, promotional materials, and playbills for each show to the monthly newsletter that Todd writes himself flow across Todd’s desk as he works tirelessly to promote Theatre Ancaster’s excellent shows.

Rich did not come to Theatre Ancaster from a theatre background.  Instead, he found himself volunteered to the company by his wife, long-time performer Tali Bar-Or, who had recently joined Theatre Ancaster’s Board of Directors.  “After attending a few board meetings and getting an idea of the needs of the company, I felt that Todd’s skill set would offer a greater value than my own,” says Bar-Or, who suggested that her husband could bring some great benefits to the company.  With that, Rich was invited to join the Board of Directors and quickly took over the Marketing Department, transforming the way Theatre Ancaster presents itself and invites people to join its audience. Over the last five years, Rich and Miller’s contributions have meant an enormous growth in Theatre Ancaster’s ticket sales, helping to rejuvenate and grow the company into what it is today.

Coming from a background outside of community theatre, Rich has often challenged commonly-held beliefs about theatre and represented the common person to a company of artists, helping Theatre Ancaster to broaden its appeal and work in ways that are effective for more people.  Beyond great talent, he has also brought a deep level of care, an obvious joy, and a non-stop work ethic that has inspired and built up this growing theatre company.  It is this combination of skill, care, personality, and dedication that led to his nomination and selection for the Nielsen Award.

The award, established to honour John Nielsen, Theatre Ancaster’s master carpenter for ten years before his death in 2003 has been awarded every year since 2004. John took on many projects for both Theatre Ancaster and his community.  In addition to his set building work with Theatre Ancaster that included building a whole town for Fiddler on The Roof and a pyramid to hold more than 50 people for Joseph, John restored the interior of The Ancaster Old Town Hall, built the town’s gazebo, did much work at the Senior Centre in Alberton, and headed the restoration work of The Tisdale House, Ancaster’s oldest heritage building.

Gord Conroy, one of Theatre Ancaster’s founders, and the chair of the Nielsen Award Committee comments, “We want to value and celebrate people who, like John Nielsen, work hard and by example, encourage and motivate others.  You couldn’t find a better example of that than Todd Rich.”

Despite his great efforts to promote and grow Theatre Ancaster and its shows, Todd remains humble, and is quick to share credit.  “Marketing is a total team effort.  So many people are involved in promoting our shows and programs and providing great customer service to our community: Neal Miller, Gord Conroy, Tali Bar-or, cast and crew, graphic designers, box office volunteers, videographers, website just name a few.” 

Theatre Ancaster is a company built by many selfless volunteers, and along with Rich, several other members of the company were nominated for the award: Laura Bottrell, Bob Carle, Krys Croxall, and Erin Bree Pierce. Rich was honoured to have been chosen for the award this year, stating, “So many very talented and dedicated people are a part of the Theatre Ancaster family and to forever have my name alongside them as a John Nielsen winner is a great honour.”

John Nielsen Award Winners

2020 - Todd Rich
Nominees: Laura Bottrell, Bob Carle, Krys Croxall, Erin Bree Pierce

2019 - Janet Delsey »
Nominees: Bob Carle, Krys Croxall, Lindsay Jones and Todd Rich

2018 - Jim and Angela Broadley »
Nominees: Jim and Angela Broadley, Bob Carle, Todd Rich,  Roxana Waldes-Wice

2017 - Michelle Chin and Martin Suichies »
Nominees: Michelle Chin, Janet Delsey, Frank Shackleton, Martin Suichies, Zachary Viola

2016 - Joanne Baker »
Nominees: Joanne Baker, Laura Bottrell, Michelle Chin, Mary Jonker, Michelle Smith

2015 - Tina Rath »
Nominees: Tristan Bernardi, Laura Bottrell, Janet Delsey, Tina Rath, Michelle Smith

2014 - Colin Lapsley »
Nominees: Jim Hemrica, Colin Lapsley, Nancy Ravoi

2013 - Sam Frisk »
Nominees: Krista Cranston, Sam Frisk, Agnes Niewiadomski, Lynda Switzer

2012 - Brent Wice »
Nominees: Krista Cranston, Sam Frisk, Colin Lapsley, Brent Wice

2011 - Randy Osatchuk
Nominees: Randy Osatchuk, Nancy Ravoi, Brent Wice

2010 - Melanie Barlow
Nominees: Melanie Barlow, Laura Bottrell, Whitney Lane

2009 - Harvey Elms
Nominees: all nominations were for Harvey Elms

2008 - Bob Penny
Nominees: Melanie Barlow, Harvey Elms, Jim Hemrica, Bob Penny

2007 - Jim Langfrey
Nominees: Melanie Barlow, Jim Langfrey, Stephanie Garant

2006 - Nupi Lapsley
Nominees: Jim Langfrey, Nupi Lapsley, Bob Penny

2005 - Allison Osterman
Nominees: June French, Allison Osterman, Mardie Panabaker

2004 - Jim Hemrica
Nominees: Jim Hemrica, Meghan Speakman, Veronica Watkins