Freeman takes center stage


In planning the star-studded lineup for the Freeman Stage at Bayside, Michelle Freeman said she wanted every performance to be something that she, her parents or her children would enjoy. And, with more than 50 performances being offered, the 2015 season hits that nail on the head, with a variety of music, dance, theater and children’s performances.

Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark : Alan Levin, director of the Delaware Department of Economic Development, and Michelle Freeman were all smiles as the entertainment list for the Freeman Stage at Bayside for 2015 was announced on Tuesday, March 31.Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark : Alan Levin, director of the Delaware Department of Economic Development, and Michelle Freeman were all smiles as the entertainment list for the Freeman Stage at Bayside for 2015 was announced on Tuesday, March 31.“There’s something for everyone. It’s a season festival where people can pick and choose,” said Patti Grimes, executive director of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, which manages the stage. “We ask people [to] take a chance, and bring a friend!”

The upcoming season’s lineup was announced March 31 near the outdoor performing-arts venue.

The 16 national recording artists on the slate are more numerous than the two past years’ lists combined: Rosanne Cash (June 27), Daryl Hall & John Oates (June 29), the Beach Boys (July 2), Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue (July 3), Melissa Etheridge & Blondie (July 8), the Wailers (July 10), Heart (July 24), Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (July 25), Indigo Girls (July 29), Preservation Hall Jazz Band (July 31), Colbie Caillat & Christina Perri (Aug. 4), Lyle Lovett & His Large Band (Aug. 13), Rusted Root (Aug. 28) and Aaron Tippin (Sept. 11).

All tickets go on sale to the public Monday, April 13, online at www.freemanstage.org.

Tickets to performances by some of the national acts cost as little as $25, and the highest-priced tickets top out at $135 for the very biggest names.

According to Freeman Stage representatives, the 2015 performers have a combined 50 Grammy nominations and 16 Grammy wins, and four are members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Located 4 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the Freeman Stage has become a jumping-off point for local acts and a landing spot for national performers.

Bringing the arts to all

Behind the glitz and glamour of those major names, the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation continues its mission to bring the arts to all people. That’s why thousands of children saw free performances or had art workshops through the venue in 2014.

“We know students engaged in arts education are more engaged in education overall … and [eventually become] civic participants in their communities,” said Paul Weagraff, director of the Delaware Division of the Arts.

More community groups should do programs like this, said Mallory Anderson, an art teacher whose entire school contributed to the Freeman-sponsored murals at Selbyville Middle School.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to hear a symphony,” said Michelle Freeman in a Governor’s Award video. “Everyone should be able to sit in the audience and be exposed to a play for the first time or hear a performer who changes their perspective.”

Freeman created the foundation in her husband’s name after his death in 2006.

“I made a decision to channel my grief into purpose. … I knew Sussex County was an arts desert,” she said of that time.

Freeman remains at the helm, guiding the foundation in “creating opportunities that elevate the human spirit,” by presenting memorable performances and arts education for all.

“This is a labor of love for them and for Delaware,” said Alan Levin, director of the Delaware Economic Development Office. “This is making a positive difference in all our lives.

“When I look at the previous acts that have been here, these are national acts … in Selbyville, Del.!” Levin quipped. “How’d they get to Selbyville?”

He praised the Freeman Foundation for attracting thousands of visitors, which contributes to Delaware’s $2.9 billion tourism industry.

The Stage saw 13,000 visitors in its first season, in 2008. Last summer, that number surpassed 51,000. With that immense popularity, there is talk of expanding the venue, Freeman added.

Route 54 venue to see 54 acts for 2015

Returning to the stage for the 2015 season are crowd favorites including Clear Space Theatre Group, the Bronx Wanderers, First State Ballet Theatre, Cherish the Ladies and Classic Albums Live, with a tribute to Pink Floyd’s album “Dark Side of the Moon.”

Newcomers include the Barefoot Movement, the Stickers, Al Chez and the Brothers of Funk, the Judy Carmichael Trio and many more.

There will be tributes to Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, Chicago, Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, plus two nights of “Locals Under the Lights,” featuring local performers.

With an acrobatic kickoff to the 2015 season, Cirque Zuma Zuma will perform Saturday, May 23. Weekly performances begin Friday, June 19, with a performance by the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra.

A special Sept. 11 performance will be held for guests of Operation SEAs the Day, a free beach week held for injured veterans and their families.

There are 23 free events, including 11 Saturday performances for children and the Sept. 19 Arts & Jazz Festival. Another 14 shows cost less than $20 to attend.

Special thanks were offered at this week’s announcement to local sponsors, plus the Delaware Division of the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, the Sussex County Council, the State of Delaware, PNC Foundation, Schell Brothers and Sodoka Inc. Charitable Foundation.

For more information, or to volunteer at the Freeman Stage, call (302) 436-3015 or visit www.freemanstage.org.