It’s been four decades coming.
After performing in shows in high school and college, Greg Frankenfield went into business, co-founding the digital technology consulting company Magenic Technologies in 1995. But he never lost his ardor for the stage. In 2013, Frankenfield bought the Old Log Theater, where this weekend he makes his professional debut in, wait for it, “The Play That Goes Wrong.”
“It’s not an accidental choice,” Frankenfield said. “I hope the cast and the show will entertain. People need a good laugh right now. And if we do our jobs, they’ll laugh.”
“The Play That Goes Wrong” is straight up the Old Log’s alley. It’s a slapstick farce about a hapless troupe of actors trying to put on a production.
Frankenfield, who became smitten with the humor while guffawing at the Broadway production, plays stage crew member Trevor, a small but important role. At one point when things go south in “Wrong” about the actors in a play, Trevor comes out with a script and has to fill in. It doesn’t go well but Frankenfield is in his element.
“It has no singing — it’s not a musical, so I thought at least I wouldn’t embarrass myself,” he said.
Frankenfield remembers the very first show he acted in. It was “The King and I” at Fridley Junior High in the early 1970s. And he had the opening number.
“Whenever I feel afraid, I whistle a happy tune,” he said, speaking the lyrics to the Rodgers and Hammerstein song. “I still remember the song but let’s be clear. I’ve never been a good singer. The only singing training I ever got was, ‘You need to sing loud.’ They didn’t have microphones.”
At Fridley High School, he acted in shows, including “A Company of Wayward Saints,” a production that won the 1977 state one-act competition.
When it came to musicals, his favorite role was the title character of “The Boy Friend.”
“He was a boyfriend who couldn’t sing but a boyfriend just the same,” Frankenfield said.
He went on to the University of Minnesota for undergraduate and graduate degrees. When getting his master’s degree in business administration in 1983, he was cast in “Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander,” the last play in Preston Jones’ “A Texas Trilogy.” It was also Frankenfield’s last appearance on a theatrical stage, playing a nerd named Milo.
“And that was the highlight because I made it onto a stage at Rarig Center,” he said.
The set for “The Play That Goes Wrong” is integral to the action. Scenic designer Erik Paulson created the Old Log version after reaching out to the designer of the Broadway and London productions.
Old Log didn’t stage shows during the pandemic and so the theater was able to build the set two months before the start of rehearsals, and the actors got to work on the set.
“It’s like working on a magic trick with the set,” Frankenfield said. “It’s complicated. If it goes wrong going wrong, we have to cover. There are things that can easily go really wrong and we have to keep going. Just like the characters in the show who play characters in a play that can’t stop, neither can we.”
In business, Frankenfield has always used his theater background.
“Theater training for me was as important as sports training is for others,” he said. “You get to know the benefit of rehearsal and practice, to know how to play a leader, if you will, learn important lessons in being a team member.”
Such training also comes in handy for folks with stage fright.
“Some people think that public speaking is more terrifying than death,” Frankenfield said. “But that training, getting onstage in front of people, has made a huge difference as I grew my company over the last 26 years.”
He sold Magenic, which had 475 employees in the U.S. and 350 employees in the Philippines, for an undisclosed sum in February. Which means he has more time for theater. But don’t look for him to be acting full time.
Acting “is a huge time commitment — these guys work so hard,” Frankenfield said. “Plus, I can’t travel for five or six months. I’m not used to that. I’ve been traveling for 26 years when I lived in a virtual world of technology. This is not a virtual world. You’ve got to show up to play.”
‘The Play That Goes Wrong’
Who: By Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields. Directed by Eric Morris.
Where: Old Log Theater, 5185 Meadville St., Excelsior.
When: 1:30 p.m. Thu., 7:30 p.m. Fri. & Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Through Feb. 26, 2022.
Protocol: “We strongly recommend that everyone wears a mask.”
Tickets: $30-$40. 952-474-5951 ext. 0, or oldlog.com.
Rohan Preston covers theater for the Star Tribune.
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