Dedicated to Andrew Nikel and his Family

In memory of Andrew Nikel, who passed away on Thursday April 4, 2024. We celebrate his life and legacy by sharing his 2020 retirement interview from City Theatrical and memorial messages from friends and colleagues.

Andrew Nikel was a lighting professional with 40 years of experience backstage and in front office. Having worked as both a Master Electrician and Sales Manager, Andrew experienced and sold lighting solutions for major productions and installations nationwide.

He is remembered and missed by all who knew him.

I: An Interview with Andrew Nikel Upon his Retirement from City Theatrical


In the light of Andrew's retirement from City Theatrical, Inc. in April 2020, the company interviewed Andrew to learn more about where his career started and his experiences during his 15-year tenure with the Sales team.


Andrew Nikel (center) at LDI Show 2013.



City Theatrical (CTI): Congratulations on your retirement! Let’s start our interview questions at the beginning of your career: How did you first get into the field of lighting for theatre and entertainment?

Andrew Nikel (AN): While majoring in Art History at Connecticut College, I made friends with people in the Theater Department, and through them, started working backstage. l was an electrician for touring shows and concerts that came into Palmer Auditorium at the college. I also worked on a lot of student productions. The technology was less complicated back then, and I suppose I picked it up by doing it.


CTI: What was it like to start your career in theatre?

AN: My first job was during the summer in Houston, Texas, working at the University of Houston’s Children’s Theater in the morning, and building scenery for  Houston Shakespeare Festival in the afternoon. At that point my brother Dave worked in sound at the Whole Theatre, a regional theater in Montclair, New Jersey,  where I grew up. He let me know about a Master Electrician job opening there. Before I knew it, I had the job. Soon thereafter, I was making safety cables, and in walked my now wife, Jennifer, who managed the Costume Department. I spent the next eight years there, as the Master Electrician and Carpenter. In addition to meeting my wife, I met lots of New York designers who were willing to come to regional theater in New Jersey because it was so close to NYC. I spent two more summers in New Mexico as an Electrician at the Santa Fe Opera. The shows were played in rep, with one of five different operas every night. That meant changeovers every day, racing around the amphitheater, and changing gel and having to refocus in daylight before the sun went down. It was hectic and fun. It was a magical setting.


Andrew Nikel (right) at the City Theatrical Booth at LDI Show 2013.

CTI: What was it like in your early days of lighting sales?

AN: In 1988, our son Ben was born, and I went into sales. My first job in sales was for Sonny Sonnenfeld, where we helped lighting designers find what they needed.

From there, I went to work for Production Arts in Manhattan, which later became part of PRG. I worked the Rental Desk, putting together packages of lighting equipment for shows. We supplied complete systems with everything that they needed and tried to give customers the ideal rental solution.

When Production Arts moved to New Jersey, the rental department was upstairs, but I started to eat lunch downstairs with the engineers. From them, I learned more about the systems installation side of the business, and I eventually moved into system sales. I then went to Vari-Lite for a new Sales opportunity. A couple of years later, VariLite was purchased by PRG, and I ended up back at PRG.

Then I got the chance to work with Gary Fails at City Theatrical. At the time, the company was based in a garage in the Bronx, but we were growing out of the space. When we arrived each morning, we had to open the garage door, and move the dumpster and the forklift outside to the sidewalk before we could get to work. I was proud to be a part of the company as it grew, invented new products, and moved to our current space in Carlstadt, New Jersey. It’s been a great ride.


CTI: You just celebrated your 15th anniversary at City Theatrical. What is the most memorable part of your 15-year tenure?

AN: Terrific people. It’s been great. We’ve gotten through floods, and all kinds of problems. I have to say, I’ve been blessed. Every person I’ve worked with has taken their work very seriously. It was really a bonding thing. Plus, I truly enjoyed working with all the customers and designers, and seeing things change and grow, both at City Theatrical, and in the industry as a whole.


“Andrew is the perfect human being – he’s the nicest person you’ve met in your whole life.”

- Gary Fails, President, City Theatrical (Photo: Andrew Nikel (left) with City Theatrical team members, including Gary Fails (right), in 2006.)


CTI: Why Sales and Customer Service, as opposed to your prior roles in production? What’s been your approach?

AN: The hours are tough in production. It’s mainly nights and weekends. And when you’re all at the theatre, it’s like a pressure cooker – you throw in actors, stage managers, lights, etc. – and lock the top, and see what happens. I enjoy the work I’ve been part of in sales, we’ve always tried to help end users. It’s also been a way to have work/life balance, and spend more time with my family, Jennifer, Ben, and Peter.


CTI: What were some of your client’s most memorable projects/installations from your work at City Theatrical?

AN: I would say the re-launch of Pier 17 at the Seaport District NYC, which is home to the Seaport Museum and the city’s largest concentration of restored maritime buildings. The custom beam control accessories we sold were part of a permanent architectural installation in a brand-new building. The facades are all glass, and each glass panel can slide up. Exterior lights were built into the 10-footlong, 16-inch-deep trusses outlining the structure of the building. Each truss gave points that required beam control for the outside color-changing lighting that shone through the glass. The job of our custom accessories was to control the glare, and direct where the eye goes, from street level. Our products tightened everything up and were also easy for the maintenance team to adjust if needed with the panel movement.


Andrew with Lori Rubenstein of PLASA at USITT 2014.


Other projects I am proud to have been part of include custom dimmers for GPI, for their commercial space renovations, wireless DMX for the lighting of Philadelphia’s Center City District, and wireless DMX control for props and costumes for religious plays at Sight & Sound Theatres in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  


CTI: What was it like spearheading some of the tech support/customer service efforts for early innovations by City Theatrical?

AN: With any of our new technologies, people used to call, and they didn’t know what to do with them. Our job was to talk them through it. It was like taking someone in front of the horse and walking a little ways. Some of my favorites include Aquafog 3300 and PDS.

Andrew Nikel 3

Andrew Nikel (left) with City Theatrical team members, including Lorlyn Sia (second from left) at the Carlstadt, New Jersey office in 2007.


CTI: How many trade shows would you say you’ve done with City Theatrical?

AN: Five per year for 12 years, so 60 or so trade shows.


CTI: How many product demo trips would you say you’ve taken nationwide with City Theatrical?

AN: 200+ is probably a good guess. PDS demos were great; the product did something very sophisticated in a not complicated box. The new wireless DMX gear has come along very nicely. With SHoW Baby, I went office to office.


CTI: What was your approach to writing the policies and procedures for the Sales Team at City Theatrical?

AN: Make them clear and repeatable. After the flood, we also created a flood protocol.

“Andrew is a wealth of knowledge for all things theatre, lighting, and City Theatrical. His affinity for our custom and wireless DMX products has always shone through. He is an asset to our team.”

- Gary Vilardi, VP Sales, City Theatrical (Photo: Andrew Nikel with Gary Vilardi at USITT)



CTI: How was it working with your family members, first your wife Jennifer, and most recently your son Peter, at City Theatrical? Have you worked with your son, Ben?

AN: When Jennifer and I worked in the theatre together, we were in our early 20s. The technical staff became very close, and we still get together for reunions.

My son Peter Nikel started working at City Theatrical for a summer job and never left. He has some chops. He’s smart, and he’s capable. He loves the Electronics department. It’s been a pleasure working with him.

My son Ben worked at City Theatrical briefly, for one summer. Then he went on to do an internship at PRG for school, in the IT department. He’s a smart man, and now works in IT for a large company in Austin, Texas.

I have enjoyed every minute working with and around my family members, as well as my extended City Theatrical team.

Andrew Nikel Retirement Interview in the March Newsletter

Martin Chisnall (left) and Andrew Nikel (right) at PLASA London 2008.

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II: Memorial Messages


Read these and more memorial comments from friends and colleagues of Andrew Nikel on Facebook or LinkedIn

You may also share memories of Andrew through our Contact page.

Thank you, and may he rest in peace. We are thankful he chose to spend much of his career with us at City Theatrical!

"Andrew Nikel was so helpful to me many years ago when he was at Production Arts -- a great gentleman. My deepest sympathy to his family and friends. RIP Andrew." - Derek Duarte

"After moving away from the East Coast in 2007, I looked forward every year to seeing Andrew at the various trade shows. Such a wonderful human being. Rest in peace Andrew." - Todd M. Reemtsma

"I first met Andrew at Production Arts many years ago. He was always the gentleman and great to work with. So sad to hear of his passing." - Stephen Snyder

"One of the nicest people in show business. Godspeed Andrew." - Kevin Lawson

"One of the nicest guys ever. We should all strive to be remembered as fondly as we remember Andrew." - John Huntington

"He was the most compassionate coworker I ever had known in all my career. Rest in peace Andrew." - Carl Andrew Camenisch

"My condolences to all. I can still see the young Andrew in those photos! We were all apprentices together at Santa Fe Opera, and I never forgot him, Godspeed to a fine man." - Todd Hensley

"I remember Andrew from Production Arts on 11th Ave. We crossed paths over the years and I was always impressed with how he would pick up a conversation as though it was yesterday. Really nice guy, knew his stuff. This is a sad day." - Jeffrey McRoberts

"What a great friend to so many of us! RIP, Andrew. Thank you for being a friend and for all you contributed! Godspeed..." - Alan Kibbe

"Very sad to hear this. Andrew was always very kind and supportive, Peace to his family and friends." - Christopher Landy


"It was with deep sadness that I’ve read of Andrew’s passing. We all benefited from knowing this wonderful man. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the City Theatrical team." - Alan Crawshaw

"Sad news and what a loss. Andrew was such a kind person. We all miss him." - Paul Vincent

"Andrew was one of the best, I always enjoyed every conversation with him. May his memory be eternal." - Paul M. Polichronakis

"I remember seeing him often from my time at 4Wall Entertainment NY. Such a soft-spoken person with a wealth of knowledge, and always a smile on his face. Rest easy sir." - CJ Westmacott

"I’m so sad to hear this. Andrew helped me with my projects back in the day and was a cherished resource and wonderful person. I’m so sorry for his family, the City Theatrical and our greater community at large." - Emily Rosco Stadulis

"I have so many wonderful memories of Andrew - he was a true professional, a class act, and a lovely human being.  I know for a fact that all who knew Andrew will remember him with great fondness. My sincere condolences to the City Theatrical and Nikel families." - Donald Holder

"I have been so saddened by Andrew's illness and now his passing. He was a part of my theatre family going all the way back to Production Arts days. He was always a pleasant addition to my day and so generous with his time in answering all my endless questions. I miss him greatly." - Vivien Leone

III: Preferred Charities


In lieu of flowers, Andrew Nikel's family asks that donations are made in Andrew's name to one of his preferred charities, which include Behind the Scenes and the Parkinson's Foundation.