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The Old Log Theatre

A Historic Theater Bringing Joy and Entertainment to the Lake Minnetonka Community.

When Greg and Marissa Frankenfield bought the Old Log Theatre and attached restaurant Cast & Cru in 2013, theirs would be the most recent chapter in the theater’s long history.  Dating back to the 1940s, the Old Log Theatre stands as Minnesota’s oldest professional theater.  And in some form or another, there have been performances every year since.  It’s a legacy the Frankenfields don’t take lightly in the age of COVID. “I think people are hungry for a chance to get out and be entertained. There’s something about live theater that is unique, that you can’t get any other way,” says Greg.  With their current show, “The Play That Goes Wrong,” they seek to continue the tradition to “entertain and delight”. 

But long before the Frankenfields, even before the city of Greenwood came to be, the Old Log Theatre started out as just that: a log theater.  What is now known as the Old Log Theatre started out as a summer stock theater that ran as many as thirteen plays from May to September, catering to the tourists coming to Lake Minnetonka.  Though most of the records of those early years have been lost through old programs left in the theater, it is possible to see which plays ran summer to summer.  “Beyond that there wasn’t much left to see what those shows looked like,” Greg shares. 

Only a few years after its creation, the summer stock theater was bought by a WWII veteran named Don Stolz.  In the late ‘50s Stolz would build the theater that is now the Old Log Theatre.  Interestingly enough, Herb Bloomberg, the architect in charge of constructing the new theater “thought it was such a good idea, he went and built the Chanhassen Dinner Theater,” Greg explains.  From the new theater’s construction, Don Stolz and his four sons would continue to run the Old Log until 2013. “They pretty much ran it non-stop for 75 years.” 

Since then, Greg and Marissa have done several major renovations to both the theater as well as the lobby and restaurant.  While a restaurant was attached to the new theater when it was constructed in the late 1950s, “from what we understand, it started off really just doing hotdogs and sandwiches,” says Greg.  Later into the 1960s when the kitchen was expanded, the food was still minimal. “Like how you might be fed at a wedding. It was exactly that concept: fish, beef, or chicken.” 

However, Greg and Marissa had grander plans for the restaurant.  Soon after purchasing the Old Log, they rebuilt the entire kitchen and restaurant to fit their ambitions of fine dining for Cast & Cru.  They also opened a themed pop-up bar on the grounds of Old Log that changes to match the season or show.  It is currently called the ‘Love Shack’, on theme with Valentine’s Day of course.  Together, the Love Shack and Cast & Cru seek to modernize the Old Log Theatre from its humble beginnings.

Though Greg has always loved the theater, his was a long arc that finally landed at the Old Log.  When he attended the University of Minnesota, he shares, “I was a theater major my first year […] it didn’t last.  I switched majors to chemical engineering soon after.”  Greg would later go on to get an MBA and work for companies like Proctor & Gamble and General Mills.  In 1995 he started his own software development company Magenic.  But it was his involvement in the community theater, along with his children’s high school plays that rekindled his love for the theater. “I kind of got the bug again when my kids grew up,” says Greg.  According to him, “I was getting into my 50s and I thought, I’m going to need to do something with the second act in my life.”  So, with his renewed interest in theater, as well as having gained experience working in the financial side of plays, Greg and Marissa bought the Old Log.

Over the decades, the Old Log has had a substantial impact on the Twin Cities theater scene. It has established a reputation for quality productions and featuring many fine actors and actresses who have come from around the country and gone on to have famous careers in New York and Hollywood. Some of the most notable names include Nick Nolte, Loni Anderson, Lois Nettleton and Steve Zahn. 

When Greg explains what has really helped him and his wife keep the Old Log running, he brings up his previous experience in software development. “Some of the same business concepts apply: project management, organization process rules, it’s all there.  But what this has that I didn’t have, what my wife brings, is really the social aspect of both theater and restaurants.”  Greg happily calls himself “a back office guy”, adding that Marissa “runs the restaurant side, and is far, far better at it than I am.  She keeps the place running.”  

However, despite the ‘back office’ persona, Greg plays the role of Trevor, the light and sound operator within the fictional play of “The Play That Goes Wrong.”  The recently off-Broadway show “is classic slapstick in some ways,” says Greg.  And that was by design. “It was important for us to open the show post-COVID, to something light, that people would just laugh at.”  And perhaps now more important than ever, the Old Log Theatre continues its long tradition of bringing the joys of live theater to Lake Minnetonka. 

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