Tony Bol: Minnesota Public Radio show-maker
Tony Bol is the director of performance programs for the Fitzgerald Theater and the UBS Forum, both owned and operated by Minnesota Public Radio.
photograph taken in his
office in the MPR studios
in downtown St. Paul. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Randy Hanson)
Tony Bol: Minnesota Public Radio show-maker
Life is pretty good if you're Tony Bol
lives in a town he
has the job of his
youthful dreams, his
wife is strong, his
daughter is above-average -- and to top off, he
isn't bad looking.
Bol, a Hudson resident for 10 years, is the director of performance programs for Minnesota Public Radio.
In that capacity, he's responsible for all the live-audience radio shows that take place at the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul.
"I'm very proud to say the Fitzgerald Theater
is the nation's leader in making radio stage shows," said Bol
And as a result, shows produced by other public radio organizations around the country often want to do a program at the Fitz to build their reputations.
Minnesota Public Radio
owns the theater at 10 East Exchange St., located a block away from the MPR and American Public Media studios
and offices at 480 Cedar St.
Bol also oversees the UBS Forum, a studio on the top floor of MPR's St. Paul facility that hosts community discussions on public policy and social issues.
"To put it simply, I make radio stage shows -- or I help to make them.
I bring in others," Bol
said of his
He took an hour out of his schedule on a Friday in mid-January to visit with a reporter from his hometown.
was a young man when he
first heard "A Prairie Home Companion" and made it his
goal to one day have a job at MPR
Reading didn't come easy for him as a youth, he
said, but he
enjoyed learning through stories and lectures and could retain what he
"I remember even as a little kid always being the one who wanted to go hear the librarian read," Bol
should have had a radio show, I thought.
After graduating from Stillwater Area High School in 1976, Bol began an on-and-off-again college experience.
He was a nightmare for his parents, he said, bouncing from university to university (including a stretch in Colorado) before ultimately earning a master's degree in communications from the University of Minnesota.
dropped out of college at one point to manage the St. Croix Boom Co.
, a popular Stillwater rock-and-roll bar in the 1980s.
"I will say I have no regrets about that time of running the St. Croix Boom Co.
because it gave me leadership in management and tough negotiations, and real serious money -- hiring, firing," Bol
His first job out of college was in student affairs at Macalester College, where he worked for five years.
Bol started with MPR 23 years ago.
was a young man living in Stillwater when he
met Garrison Keillor
for the first time.
Keillor was then a resident of Marine on St. Croix
, north of Stillwater.
got invited to a beach volleyball game on a river island that Keillor was participating in.
"I was struck by his
quiet demeanor," Bol
"(He was) very friendly, but very quiet."
Bol works regularly with Keillor now.
They talk occasionally.
has been to Keillor
's home and he
son and grandchildren, Bol
said, but they don't socialize.
"People sometimes don't understand his
social manner, but I think we've all met people who live in their heads," Bol
produced shows in which Keillor
has recited many verses of poetry from memory - and helped out poets who stumbled trying to recall lines from their own work.
"Garrison's ability to retain information is shocking," Bol
"I've seen him do it in action and he
does it time and time again, over and over again."
been only wonderful to me," Bol
"…The fact of the matter is, I chose to go into public radio because of Garrison Keillor
And here I am.
I'm very honored that my career worked out where I am literally working with him and not just theoretically wishing."
is an introvert, Bol
is the opposite.
Friendly and affable, he's
quick with grin and a laugh, and happy to engage in conversation.
"Stories will be told," is the phrase stamped on a Fitzgerald Theater
coffee mug that Bol
took off a shelf and handed to a guest.
"That's the idea" at the Fitz," he
is wearing a Kelly green shirt with a matching plaid bow tie.
A Kelly green pocket square is tucked into breast pocket of his
and his wife, Eden Penn, moved to a house on Fourth Street when Yasha was 3.
's brother Todd and his wife moved to Hudson a few years after Bol and Penn arrived.
Todd, the co-founder of Little Free Library
, is two years older than Bol
"Make sure that's crystal clear," Bol
"We chide each other enjoyably.
done something though.
vision with the Little Free Libraries
and Todd grew up on a hobby farm near Lake Elmo, Minn. After having four boys, their parents adopted a girl.
is the youngest of the boys.
works in an urbane world of authors, entertainers and musicians, he
perfectly at home
likes The Phipps Center for the Arts
, the Star-Observer, the downtown, the parks and the river.
"I'm proud of our town," Bol