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The Freeman Stage Ushers in 2021 With a New Name

If there was ever any doubt The Freeman Stage was a major player in the Delmarva arts scene, 2020 put it to rest. The global pandemic decimated the performing arts industry, with widespread tour cancellations and the shuttering of even the most venerable establishments across the country.

Yet the Selbyville-based arts organization successfully launched a 2020 season, albeit shorter, with smaller crowds and all the mandatory public safety protocols in place. It held 49 performances between July and September and hosted over 11,000 audience members at its open-air venue, complete with “seating pods,” hand sanitizer stations, and mask requirements. A post-season survey revealed a 97% approval rating for its “Special Season of the Arts,” with an equally large majority of attendees indicating they plan to return for 2021 performances, COVID or not.

They will return to a larger venue under a new name.

“We decided it was the right time to transition from The Freeman Stage to Freeman Arts Pavilion as a signal of our commitment to our future in this region,” said Patti...

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‘Powering through’ both on stage and off

Karen Richards has played some powerhouse lead actress roles in her theater career, including Oda Mae Brown in “Ghost,” Effie White in “DreamGirls,” and MotorMouth Maybelle in “HairSpray.” But she admits to initially feeling helpless in the face of COVID-19.

“I had just moved to New York City from Nebraska at the end of October last year,” she explained. “By March, the restaurant where I was working shut its doors and I found myself out of work. Luckily, I got the call from David Button (Clear Space Theatre’s Artistic Director) and I found myself packing up for Rehoboth Beach a few weeks later.”

Richards was tapped for the lead in “Sister Act,” the feel-good comedy smash that is currently running at Clear Space Theatre and will also be featured at The Freeman Stage on Friday, Aug. 21, at 8 p.m. In addition, she plays the role of Jacqueline in “La Cage aux Folles” and is in the ensemble cast of “Cabaret.” Rehearsals for all three musicals — which are being presented at the Rehoboth-based theatre on a rotating basis through the end of August — began in early...

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Starry Night Classics: A Perfect Introduction to Opera and Classical Music

Think opera is an outdated art form for the elite? Think again. Opera’s up-and-coming stars are young, culturally diverse and as passionate about their craft as any performing artist out there.

For anyone looking for a perfect intro to the opera — as well as those who are already ardent fans — the “Starry Night Classics” performance scheduled at The Freeman Stage on Saturday, Aug. 15, will present a “greatest hits” of some of the world’s most beloved operas.

The concert will feature operatic masterpieces from “Carmen,” “Faust,” “Rigoletto,” “La Bohème,” and “Turandot,” among many others. Conducted by Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (MSO) Music Director Maestro Julien Benichou and hosted by City Opera General Director Michael Capasso, Starry Night Classics will feature today’s brightest stars of the New York City Opera: soprano Kristin Sampson, mezzo-soprano Lisa Chavez, tenor Michael Butler, and bass-baritone Kevin Short.

“These are literally some of the greatest singers in the country right now and I am absolutely thrilled to be sharing the stage with them,”...

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The Freeman Stage presents, ‘Broadway Stars (Under the Stars) on July 23-24

On June 6, Patti Grimes, executive director of The Freeman Stage, found herself staring at a blank performance calendar. After having to cancel a full slate of performances that had been assembled over the prior six months, she had now been given the go-ahead by the nonprofit’s Board of Directors for a “right-sized” season, one that would feature smaller audiences, local/regional acts and a stringent adherence to physical distancing and other health-related guidelines given the public health concerns around COVID-19.

“Once we received the word to move forward, our entire season had to be reprogrammed in a fraction of the time it normally takes,” said Grimes. “We were able to quickly book some local favorites like Lower Case Blues and the Stims, who were thrilled to be part of our season. We have a strong focus on diversity, not just in cultural terms but also in terms of musical genre. Our challenge was finding a nice variety of acts that could appeal to our broad audience base.”

What dropped in her lap later that day was a gem. Connie Bowman, a Bayside community...


The Freeman Stage Announces, “The Art of Yoga,” a yoga and music series

At a time when pandemic-weary people are looking for outdoor activities for everything from dining and entertainment to exercise and social interaction, The Freeman Stage saw an opportunity to put its 2,400-square-foot lawn to use for an arts-related collaboration on non-performance nights.

They found a perfect fit with SoulFire Collective, a popular yoga studio located in Rehoboth Beach. “The Art of Yoga” will be offered each Wednesday evening in August and will feature 60 minutes of yoga instruction followed by live music and refreshments on the lawn at The Freeman Stage.

“We were already big fans of SoulFire Collective and thought of them immediately when we come up with the idea,” said Michelle Freeman, Chairman and President of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation which runs The Freeman Stage. SoulFire Collective owners Kat and Brooke Wyman were already conducting classes on the beach, and at other outdoor venues like Good Earth Market and Salted Vines Vineyard. The chance to offer another outdoor experience to their loyal group of yoga enthusiasts was an easy yes,...


Eric Scott Band brings a ‘fun and funky’ show to The Freeman Stage

Washington, D.C., singer/songwriter and bassist Eric Scott is bringing his “fun and funky” show to The Freeman Stage Saturday, Aug. 1.

Scott — who was featured in the nonprofit’s social media spotlight “The Stage is Yours,” earlier this year —has toured internationally as a solo artist and sideman. He has shared the stage with artists including James Brown, B.B. King, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner and more. He’s written and released four solo albums and his music has been featured on ABC, Showtime as well as several indie and major motion pictures. He is a 16-time Wammie winner, awarded by the Washington Area Music Association, including Best Pop Album for his recent EP “Charm City Sessions.”

Growing up, the one constant in his life was his mother’s music collection, which was extensive and varied, Scott said.

“There was always music playing. From Marvin Gaye and Carole King to Dave Brubeck and Black Sabbath and everything in between,” he said. “I loved it and consumed it all.”

Attendees can expect an upbeat and fun performance that will have them dancing in...


The Freeman Stage has been named "Best Live Music Venue" by Coastal Style Magazine

The Freeman Stage is thrilled to be honored with 2020 Best of Coastal Style Award for Live Music Venue.

The Stage is Set

2020 Season Update: Smaller audiences, local acts and children’s programming will be presented

The planning for the 2020 season at The Freeman Stage began soon after the last performance last year, but what would have been the organizations’ biggest lineup to date had to be shelved when the pandemic struck.

While the nation was in quarantine, the nonprofit pivoted its programming to provide virtual arts experiences via social media and local schools. Its staff and Board of Directors closely monitored the ever-changing landscape presented by COVID-19, continually evaluating alternative options that allowed the Stage to stay true to its mission while respecting the mandates from government and public health officials.

This week, The Freeman Stage announced it is moving forward with a special season of the arts — one which will have reduced capacity to comply with physical distancing guidelines and will primarily showcase local and regional talent.

“We’ve decided as an organization the arts need to be present during this time of reopening,” said Executive Director Patti Grimes. “Our Board of Directors supports the key tenets of our mission, which includes...


Freeman Stage adjusts to pandemic obstacles

The “Stay at Home” mandates from the government have impacted a wide range of businesses throughout the nation.

Those that are seasonal — like many of the small businesses in the Maryland and Delaware beach resort areas — have been particularly hard hit. Instead of opening their doors this shoulder season, they have been forced to stay closed.

The Freeman Stage — the open-air performing arts venue, which is a program of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation — was scheduled to announce its 13th season lineup in mid-March, with tickets going on sale soon after. Instead, the nonprofit was forced to hit the pause button like many entertainment venues across the U.S.

The season, which was originally slated to begin Memorial Day weekend, has currently been pushed back to late-June, with the organization currently working to reschedule several performances.

“The Freeman Stage is a place to create everlasting memories with family and friends and experience the joy of the arts — and our goal is to continue that in 2020,” said Patti Grimes, executive director. “Although...

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Joshua M. Freeman Foundation to commemorate 100th anniversary of 19th Amendment

The Joshua M. Freeman Foundation is proud to present a myriad of events and programs to celebrate the Centennial of the 19th Amendment Ratification, including a Celebration March on International Women’s Day, March 8, in Georgetown.

The celebratory march will take place beginning at 3 p.m. at The Circle in Georgetown and will commemorate the suffragettes who marched for women to have the right to vote. The event is open to the public of all ages and gender and will feature a proclamation from the town of Georgetown, a sash-making station, music, and hot beverages and sweet treats — including Girl Scout cookies for sale. The League of Women Voters will also be on-site for voter registration.

“This event is an opportunity to honor all women and kicks off a series of events that celebrate this historic milestone through the arts,” said Patti Grimes, the executive director of the Foundation.

“We are excited to celebrate this pivotal moment in history through the arts,” she said. “We wanted to provide the opportunity for everyone to celebrate in multiple ways and...


The Freeman Stage volunteer corps has been selected for the 2019 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award!

By Steven Billups

Thirty-two individuals and groups were honored with the 2019 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award Oct. 29 at Dover Downs Hotel. The recipients were recognized for significant contributions, engagement and impact in diverse activities, including mentoring children, supporting people with disabilities, protecting the environment, and assisting seniors, people who are homeless, and veterans. To read the full article, visit capegazette.com.

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Freeman Stage Brings Poetry Performance To Stephen Decatur

By Charlene Sharpe

Students at Stephen Decatur High School last week saw the power of poetry with a performance hosted by The Freeman Stage.

As part of its Art in Education program, The Freeman Stage brought The Mayhem Poets to Stephen Decatur High on Friday, Sept. 20.

“We try to celebrate and inspire poetry in the schools in the Delmarva region,” said Denise Allen, education coordinator for Freeman Stage.

Click here to read full article.

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The 2019 season concludes with Season Finale Fireworks and Arts & Jazz Festival

As September nears, The Freeman Stage is excited to celebrate its final events of the 2019 season.

The annual Labor Day celebration with Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and fireworks will take place Saturday, Aug. 31. This performance begins at 7 p.m. and is free for all patrons, though seating and admittance are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Patrons can guarantee a seat for this high attendance event by reserving a ticket on freeemanstage.org for $10; reserved seats will be held until 7:15 p.m.

The MSO, under the direction of Maestro Julien Benichou, will perform an evening of great jazz and light classics. The fireworks display will immediately follow the performance.

“The season finale with the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra is such a magical evening and a celebrated tradition,” said Patti Grimes, the executive director of The Freeman Stage. “The fireworks cap off the evening as a thank you to the community for their continued support of the arts.”

The Arts & Jazz Festival, will be held Saturday, Sept. 14, and is an all-day event. This event...

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The Freeman Stage accredited by the Standards for Excellence Institute®

The Joshua M. Freeman Foundation is pleased to announce it is a recipient of the Standards for Excellence Institute’s Seal of Excellence for successfully completing the rigorous accreditation program.

The fundraising arts nonprofit voluntarily opened itself up to analysis by a jury of its peers. The peer review team examined the organization for compliance with the Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector, in areas including: mission, strategy and evaluation; leadership: board, staff, and volunteers; legal compliance and ethics; finance and operations; resource development; and public awareness, engagement, and advocacy.

The Standards for Excellence Institute evaluates fundamental values such as honesty, integrity, fairness, respect, trust, responsibility, and accountability, all of which are inherently important in the nonprofit world.

The Foundation’s programs — which include The Freeman Stage as well as its arts in education and community access programs — and services, management, fundraising and financial...


The Freeman Stage looking to expand

By Maria Counts

In just 11 years in the community, the Freeman Stage at Bayside is looking to expand yet again.

Patti Grimes, executive director of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation told the Sussex County Council on Tuesday, Nov. 13, that its current stage — the second iteration of an arts hub in West Fenwick — will continue to grow.

“Our mission remains the heart of our programming,” she said. “Our mission is partnering to present memorable performances and inspired arts education for all.”

Grimes said Delaware residents and guests alike are welcome at the stage, where they also continue to grow in the diversity of programs offered.

“Over 11 years, we have served over a half a million people in this county — 406,000 at the Freeman Stage and 101,000 children in Sussex County schools,” she said, noting, “Sussex County was an arts desert” prior to the stage, but the venue is now “busting at the seams.”

“We have put Sussex County on the map as a place where everyone can come and enjoy the arts,” Grimes said. “We are now the third-largest arts...


School of fish: SMS making waves in art class

By Laura Walter

Selbyville Middle School students recently spilled color into their world with the newest Arts in Education program by the The Freeman Stage.

The Moving Pastels Project let students, teachers and parents create their own self-portraits as a fish, which they paired with a character trait that best describes them.

Known for colorful and whimsical artworks, lead artist John Donato has also previously overseen schoolwide murals in a number of schools.

“A self-portrait … is like the toughest thing in the world to do,” said Donato. “They’re really reflecting on themselves.”

For the full story, please visit the Coastal Point.


The Mayhem Poets inspire Cape High students

By Ellen Driscoll

For Cape High students who say poetry is boring, a Sept. 19 performance by The Mayhem Poets may have been a game-changer.

“Poetry out loud brings everyone together,” said poet Mikumari Caiyhe. “Black, white, brown, green, everyone.”

To the tune of the “Rocky” theme song “Gonna Fly Now,” the poets performed a one-word poem as if sung by cats, meowing the entire song.

“We love doing it, because you can be fun and silly with poetry and performance,” said poet Scott Raven.

For the full story visit the Cape Gazette.


Freeman Stage staff and volunteers take it all in hand

By Christina Weaver/Special to the Coastal Point

From waiting for an artist’s first bus to arrive around 6 a.m., to precisely placing the very first chair for the evening’s show, to security-wanding each patron as they arrive, to serving thousands of beverages, to removing hundreds of bags of trash and recyclables, to watching the last of the artist’s busses leave after 1 a.m., the Freeman Stage blue- and yellow-shirted workers make each event appear to go like clockwork.

“They don’t have the most glamorous of jobs, but they have an enormous sense of accomplishment,” said Michelle Freeman, chairman and president of the Freeman Stage. “Their dedication to our mission” — partnering to present memorable performances and provide inspired arts education for all — “humbles me. I tell them, they may not get to like their work every day, but they get to love it every day.”

Dave Kittell is the facilities and asset manager. For four years, he worked as a seasonal team member at the Stage while teaching English as a second language at Delaware Technical Community College...


2018 season concludes with final events of the summer

As September nears, The Freeman Stage is excited to celebrate its final events of the 2018 season.

The annual Labor Day celebration with Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and fireworks will take place Sunday, Sept. 2. This performance begins at 7 p.m. and is free for all patrons, though seating and admittance are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Patrons can guarantee a seat for this high attendance event by reserving a ticket on freeemanstage.org for $10; reserved seats will be held until 7:15 p.m.

The MSO, under the direction of Maestro Julien Benichou, will perform an evening of great jazz and light classics. The fireworks display will immediately follow the performance.

“The season finale with the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra is such a magical evening and a celebrated tradition,” said Patti Grimes, the executive director of The Freeman Stage. “The fireworks cap off the evening as a thank you to the community for their continued support of the arts.”

The Arts & Jazz Festival, will be held Saturday, Sept. 15, and is an all-day event. This event...


Poetry Out Loud participants take the Stage

The Freeman Stage is excited to announce three Delaware students who participated in the Poetry Out Loud program recited their poems prior to the Delaware All-State Theatre performance of “Evita,” on Tuesday, June 26.

Poetry Out Loud is a national program — sponsored locally by the Delaware Division of the Arts (DDOA) — that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. The program uses a pyramid structure that starts at the classroom level where winners advance to a school-wide competition, then a regional and/or state competition before advancing to nationals. Each fall, the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation partners with Sussex County high schools and the DDOA to present poetry residency programs for high school students and to support the Poetry Out Loud program.

The three students who recited their poetry at The Freeman Stage included state semi-finalist Tanaye Purnell from Sussex Central High School, state semi-finalist Tania Laurent from Seaford High School, and state...


2017 Stage breakdown

October 19, 2017

Folding up the Freeman Stage after a successful 2017 season.


2017: Looking back on Season 10

September 25, 2017

A look back on our 10th season at The Freeman Stage


10 Years of Memories

August 1, 2017

As we made our way through Season 10, Michelle Freeman looks back on what has helped to make The Freeman Stage the success that it is today.


Memories from longtime Freeman Stage patron Janet Powell

April 5, 2017

We love our patrons! Recently a longtime patron, Janet Powell of Ocean View, sat down with us to talk about what she enjoys about her experiences here at The Freeman Stage!

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2017 Freeman Stage season announcement

March 15, 2017

The Joshua M. Freeman Foundation recently announced its 2017 summer season at The Freeman Stage at Bayside, which will feature a diverse offering of dance, theatre, children’s performances and live music in celebration of its 10th season.

The national acts include Tedeschi Trucks Band on June 17; Baltimore Raven’s kicker Justin Tucker on June 18; The Stray Cat Lee Rocker on June 24; comedian Jay Leno on June 30; The O’Jays on July 1; Dustin Lynch & Granger Smith on July 6; Blues Travelers on July 11; The Wallflowers and Better than Ezra on July 12; Gary Clark Jr. on July 17; Hunter Hayes on July 28; Michael Franti & Spearhead on July 29; Sutton Foster on July 30; Chicago on Aug. 1; Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue on Aug. 3; Mary Chapin Carpenter on Aug. 8 and Joey Alexander Trio on Aug. 12.

This year’s performers include three Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, a Caldecott book honoree as well as a two-time Tony winner and, combined, have 15 Grammy Awards and over 30 Grammy nominations; two Country Music Association Awards; 3 Emmy Awards and 17...


Pam Green's favorite Freeman Stage memory

March 14, 2017

We've been interviewing some our patrons, sponsors, and partners this week and many of them have shared their favorite memories at The Freeman Stage. Here's a great one from Pamela Green of The Dispatch, who will be returning as a sponsor in 2017.


'Our mission is really true to everything we do’: 10 years after his death, Josh Freeman’s legacy continues to enrich lives

December 14, 2016

Josh Freeman was a man who believed in more than building homes and shopping centers — for him, it was about building quality of life. And in the 10 years since his untimely death his companies and the organizations in his honor, have continued to carry on the legacy of creating places that enrich lives.

Freeman, who died in a helicopter crash on Dec. 14, 2006, was the President and CEO of the Carl M. Freeman Companies, which develops and manages commercial and residential properties. He also served as the chairman of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, a private family foundation that provides grants to nonprofits in the mid-Atlantic region.

For those who knew Josh Freeman several words are continually used to describe him — kind, fun-loving, philanthropic, inclusive and witty. He joined the Carl M. Freeman Companies, a company founded in 1947 by his father, Carl, in 1986 as a leasing agent and was named President in 1992. He was a community builder whose leadership and personal commitment was focused on making the places he lived and raised his family a better place for...


Gone too soon: Remembering Josh Freeman 10 years later

December 14, 2016

Today, Dec. 14, marks the 10th anniversary of Josh Freeman’s sudden passing. On this important day, Michelle Freeman wanted to share some thoughts about her late husband:

“The Freeman family is so grateful for the incredible support and encouragement since the passing of Josh in 2006. Josh believed each person is unique with their own special qualities. I’d like to think that what we have accomplished in his name continues to build upon his legacy. A beautiful characteristic of my husband was his personal commitment to ‘pay it forward.’ If anyone would like to do anything in his remembrance today, ‘pay it forward’ in any way that you see fit. He would have loved that.”

Michelle thought that it may be fitting to also share Josh’s favorite poem, “If” by Rudyard Kipling, which he would often recite:

  • If you can keep your head when all about you
  • Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
  • If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
  • But make allowance for their doubting too;
  • If you can wait and not...

The next stage in this Stage’s life

September 10, 2016

A different stage will be coming to The Freeman Stage in 2017!