Don Stolz, the longtime director of the Old Log Theater who was considered the godfather of the Twin Cities theater community, died Saturday night at Sholom Home West in St. Louis Park, the Star Tribune reports. He was 97.
Stolz ran the Old Log Theater in Excelsior, the oldest professional theater in Minnesota, for 73 years.
Stolz took over the theater's operation in 1941 – just a year after it opened – at the age of 23, when it was primarily a summer stock venue.
He began producing shows year round in 1958 and oversaw the construction of a new, larger facility next to the old one, around the same time. Over the years the theater helped launch the careers of hundreds of actors.
Stolz remained involved in running the theater until he sold it in 2013 to Marissa and Greg Frankenfield.
Stolz was also involved for years in Twin Cities radio and television, writing and performing with Clellan Card on WCCO’s "Axel and his Dog," which ran from 1954 to 1966.
Stolz stayed off camera with his arm in a puppet sleeve, portraying Axel’s dog Towser and cat Tallulah.
He also acted for WCCO Radio and directed television commercials produced by Campbell Mithun. He produced several shows and holiday specials for WCCO TV, as well, according to the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting.
Stolz was inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2006.