Beach Boys, Barenaked Ladies, Jennifer Nettles to star at Freeman Stage

Date Published: 
April 10, 2014

Big things are on the horizon for the Freeman Stage at Bayside. Whether people want to rock out or relax, they’ll have plenty of options when the Freeman Stage hosts 10 national recording artists among nearly 50 performances this season.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the diversified programing that our seventh season will offer our community,” said Patti Grimes, executive director of the nonprofit Joshua M. Freeman Foundation.

Besides dance, theater, opera, live music and children’s theater, the outdoor performing arts venue is doubling last year’s number of national recording artists, with performances by: Bruce Hornsby on July 2, the Aaron Neville Duo on July 11, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on July 12, Wynton Marsalis with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on July 19, the Barenaked Ladies on July 23, Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam on July 25, the Beach Boys on July 27, Firefall on Aug. 8, Jennifer Nettles on Aug. 9 and David Nail on Aug. 13.

“Adding these concerts to our lineup over the last few season has been a huge success,” Grimes said.

While tickets to all of the headlining artists’ performances will require purchase of a ticket, 50 percent of the venue’s shows are free, and many others cost only $10 or $25. Most shows are free for children to attend.

“We hope you enjoy this stage in your life, and we invite you to take a risk and see an artist you are not familiar with,” or new music or dance genres, Grimes said.

“We’re getting people coming in from Washington, from Baltimore, from all over Delaware to see this facility,” said State Rep. Ron Gray (R-38th) of the unique spot in the West Fenwick area. “To think we would have this a mile from where I grew up…”

Part of the Freeman Foundation’s mission is to bring the arts to children and others who wouldn’t normally have access to the arts — something Grimes said the board feels can lift the human spirit.

Every year, thousands of local school children visit the stage for free performances, thanks in part to transportation grants from the Sussex County Council. Season sponsors include Sodoka, Inc. Charitable Foundation and Schell Brothers, as well as the PNC Foundation as a sponsor of the free Saturday morning children’s performances.

“If you want to see what your ticket is buying, stand out on Route 54 and see those buses coming in,” said Michelle Freeman, president and chair of Joshua M. Freeman Foundation. “It is phenomenal.”

As for the art, “It changes me just like it changes the seconder-grader that walks out of that bus,” Freeman said.

The entire season is put on by “a small but mighty team,” as well as hundreds of volunteers.

Additionally, the venue will play host this summer to participants in Operation SEAS the Day, which will provide Bethany Beach-area vacations for injured and recovering veterans for its second summer. Those soldiers and their families will be special guests at the performance by the Bruce in the USA tribute band in September.

Michelle Freeman said the effort is especially meaningful since her own husband was a Green Beret.

“We invite all of you to come out and support that evening,” she said.

Combined, performers from the 2014 season have won more than 20 Grammy Awards, and two are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

To kick off the season, children of all ages can enjoy Rhythmic Circus’s “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” an energetic performance with tap dancing, a big brass band, beat-boxers and more. The public show is May 24, but local school children will see performances all week long.

The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra will continue the opening-night tradition on June 20, this time also bringing the Valley Brothers Duo and a 100-student chorus from John M. Clayton Elementary School in Frankford.

Audiences will be able to welcome the sounds of Nashville, Motown, Ireland and Sussex County, too, since local performers will have a place in the spotlight again this year. Theater performances include Shakespeare, “Peter Pan,” “Alice in Wonderland” and storytellers.

Sara Chase Carlson’s passion for the arts and reaching out to children made her a board member early on, and she is still helping to carry on Josh Freeman’s philanthropic legacy.

“I could barely contain my own excitement at … the level of talent Patti has brought to my community,” she said. “I’m so delighted and proud to be part of this organization. I want to thank you all, and see you this summer!”

The foundation’s major annual fundraisers have also been scheduled, including the Black & Tan Celebration, Joshua M. Freeman Foundation Golf Tournament and the White Party. The Joshua M. Freeman Foundation also benefits from this year’s Mid-Atlantic Wine and Food Festival.

Additional support comes from Delaware Division of the Arts, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, Sussex County Council and State of Delaware.

Amy Perez was a child when she first visited the Freeman Stage.

“It’s a great stress-reliever because sometimes you’re just overwhelmed with work and studies and all that stuff, so you just come out here,” said Perez, now a Delaware Technical Community College student. “I welcome all of you to come this summer and enjoy every moment with your families and have fun, because it’s great.”

Tickets for all paid performances will go on sale to the general public on Monday, April 21, at 10 a.m.

For more information on this season or volunteering at the Freeman Stage, call (302) 436-3015 or visit www.freemanstage.org.