Old Log Theater

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The Old Log Theater is the oldest professional theater in the state of Minnesota.[1] It is sometimes cited as the oldest continuously operating professional theater in the United States,[2][3] although other much older theaters such as the 200-year-old Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia would seem to have a stronger claim to that title.[4]

The Old Log Theater first opened in 1940 in a building originally used as a shed with a dirt floor. Throughout its existence the theater has focused mostly on screwball comedy, contemporary plays and British farces, though in its early years it operated as a summer stock company. During its years of operation in its original Greenwood, Minnesota location the theater was able to seat 270 people and during its summer season would present a show per week.[5]

During the 1950s the theater's popularity grew and late in that decade it found a need for larger quarters. Herb Bloomberg, who was a builder in Chanhassen, Minnesota, was hired to design and build the new theater on 10 acres (40,000 m2) near Lake Minnetonka in 1965. The new building could seat 655 and was designed to look like a barn with a large lobby featuring a fireplace and a high ceiling. Herb Bloomberg went on to build and operate the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. The current theater has be reconfigured to seat 560; recent remodeling has included a deeper stage and new sound and lighting systems. The attached restaurant, The Old Log dining room, currently seat 300 diners and provides an important source of revenue.[6]

Current owner and operator Greg and Marissa Frankenfield purchased the Old Log Theater May 2013. Greg Frankenfield is cofounder and CEO of MagenicTechnologies, a major Minnesota information technology firm. Both he and his wife, Marissa, are theater enthusiasts and producers who have been on the boards of several local theatre organizations and are invested in productions such as "Lend Me a Tenor" in London's West End and Tony award winning"Peter and the Starcatcher" on Broadway. The Frankenfields, along with their Artistic Director R. Kent Knutson, will continue on the tradition of professional, live theater with more shows each season, a broader array of contemporary theatre and present at least one musical as part of their season. They are re-imagining the experience at the Old Log Theater to keep the things that make it special and invest in changes that will make it better. Their goal is to ensure that the Old Log remains a vibrant regional and artistic community asset.

Prior owner of 73 years, Don Stolz, joined the theater a year after its inception.[7][5] When he joined the Old Log Theater he was 23 and was a graduate student in theater at Northwestern University. The first show Stolz directed that year was Sidney Howard's Ned McCobb's Daughter. Stolz would be instrumental in the growth of television in the Twin Cities and became a radio veteran in the area. In 2006, several of Stolz's sons took over theater operations, though Stolz still remains active in the productions, including a short speech before and after each night's performance.

Theater alumni include actor Nick Nolte who spent three years with the theater, Loni Anderson and long-time Twin Cities news anchor and actor Dave Moore.

An estimated 6 million people have attended productions at the Old Log Theater.[8] The Old Log Theater exists solely on income generated by ticket and concession sales, and by its attached restaurant.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Old Log Theater
  2. ^ "Ivey Awards Honor Twin City Artists, Productions". Actors' Equity Association. October 24, 2008. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ The Customer is Always Right, September 16, 1998
  4. ^ "History". Walnut Street Theatre. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Binkley, Mike (May 22, 2011). "Finding Minnesota: Oldest Businesswoman In The State?". WCCO. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  6. ^ Gihring, Tim. "Wise Guys". Minnesota Monthly. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Don Stolz". Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  8. ^ Papatola, Dominic P. (September 22, 2008). "Small theaters are big winners at annual Ivey Awards honoring local stages". Pioneer Press. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  9. ^ Hawley, David (April 21, 2008). "Old Log Theater endures in its neck of the woods". MinnPost. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°54′38.18″N 93°33′27.57″W / 44.9106056°N 93.5576583°W / 44.9106056; -93.5576583