Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra at Freeman Stage 2019

The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra performs annually at the Freeman Stage. This year's summer entertainment series will be altered by coronavirus-related measures, with a focus on local acts and smaller audiences grouped into 'pods.'

The Freeman Stage has announced that, although its season of appearances by nationally-known performers has had to be shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers have been working hard to put together a “right-sized” season that shines the spotlight on local performers.

Planning for the 2020 season at the Freeman Stage began soon after the last performance last year, and it would have been the organization’s biggest lineup to date, according to the announcement by Freeman’s leadership team on Thursday, June 12.

“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 creating experiences that elevate the human spirit,” she said. “We are going to do that by presenting the arts at a right-sized scale due to COVID-19.”

When the nationwide quarantine began in mid-March, resulting in schools switching to online learning, the Freeman Stage pivoted its programming to provide virtual arts experiences via social media and through local schools.

Meanwhile, the staff and staff and board of directors closely monitored the ever-changing landscape presented by COVID-19. That meant continually evaluating alternative options that “allowed the outdoor venue to stay true to its mission while respecting the mandates from government and public health officials,” they said.

So the focus has shifted to smaller events and more local acts.

This summer, the venue’s locally focused performances will have reduced crowd capacity in order to comply with physical distancing guidelines set by Gov. John Carney.

Because the organization is starting from scratch in terms of a lineup, there will be rolling announcements of performances throughout the summer. The first round of shows will be announced near the end of June, with ticket sales starting soon after, Grimes said.

Tickets will be sold in groups, or “pods,” with fixed seating for four provided in each pod. The season will start out with a seating capacity of just under 400, and that will be periodically re-evaluated as the summer progresses to determine if any adjustments are warranted.

“As we navigate these unprecedented times, safety has always been our No. 1 priority,” Grimes said, “so we’re using this pod approach to give people some freedom while still being able to maintain physical distance.

“While we have limited space, we have a beautiful lawn and consider ourselves fortunate to be a presenter this season, as many of our fellow arts organizations are unable to do so,” Grimes added.

The Stage’s plans to present local artists — many of whom haven’t been able to perform since the COVID-19 quarantine began — are targeting an early July start to this summer’s performance season.

Details about performers, as well as ticket prices and logistics, including whether the venue will provide food trucks for concertgoers as it has in past years, will be coming in the next few weeks, according to Freeman spokesperson Alyson Cunningham, who said those details are still being worked on.

In addition to the plans for the summer performances, Freeman also announced this week that its Young Audience Series, which features free children’s programing typically held on Saturday mornings in the summer months, will still be held this year. Details on that will be announced in the coming weeks. The children’s program is being funded by a grant from the PNC Foundation and the Delaware Community Foundation.

For more information on plans as the season at Freeman takes shape, visit freemanstage.org.

Staff Reporter

Kerin majored in journalism at Ohio University and has worked as an editor and reporter for monthly, daily and weekly publications in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Delaware since 1983. A native of Baltimore, Md., she has lived in Ocean View since 1996.