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

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, Minnesotamarker location the theater was able to seat 270 people and during its summer season would present a show per week.

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, Minnesotamarker, was hired to design and build the new theater on 10 acres near Lake Minnetonkamarker 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 Theater.

The attached restaurant, The Old Log dining room, can seat 350 diners and provides a important source of revenue.

Current owner and operator Don Stolz joined the theater a year after its inception. When he joined the Old Log Theater he was 23 and was a graduate student in theater at Northwestern Universitymarker. 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 Citiesmarker 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. The Old Log Theater exists solely on income generated by ticket and concession sales, and by its attached restaurant.

References

  1. http://www.exploreminnesota.com/listing.aspx?EntityID=4675 Old Log Theater
  2. http://www.actorsequity.org/NewsMedia/news2008/Oct24.Iveys.asp Ivey Awards, October 24, 2008
  3. The Customer is Always Right, September 16, 1998
  4. [1]
  5. [2]
  6. http://www.minnesotamonthly.com/core/pagetools.php?pageid=9371&url=%2Fmedia%2FMinnesota-Monthly%2FMay-2009%2FWise-Guys%2F&mode=print
  7. http://www.pavekmuseum.org/stolz.htm
  8. http://wcco.com/findingminnesota/Finding.Minnesota.Old.2.361210.html
  9. http://www.twincities.com/stage/ci_10530386
  10. http://www.minnpost.com/stories/2008/04/21/1471/old_log_theater_endures_in_its_neck_of_the_woods


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