Freeman Stage celebrates its 10th Season as Delaware’s Hidden Arts Gem
As someone who is not a native Delawarean, I have enjoyed learning more about the diamond state in the last seven years than I ever knew before. So, when I found out about the Freeman Stage at Bayside from a coworker last month, it sounded too intriguing for me to not investigate. The Freeman Stage is the centerpiece of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, a nonprofit arts and philanthropic organization established as a legacy to Joshua who was killed in a helicopter accident in 2006. In life, Joshua worked with his father,real estate developer Carl M. Freeman. Both gave back heavily to the communities that they helped to develop. The Joshua M. Freeman Foundation carries on the mission that Joshua shared with his wife Michelle which was to create memorable performances and inspire arts education for all.
Informal interviews give us the ability to find out what makes a company tick. We get to find out what makes the employees happy, the visitors happy, and what makes them return year after year. In looking for more information about what seemed like a diamond in the countryside, I was granted the opportunity to interview Alyson Cunningham, Communication and Public Relations Manager at the Freeman Foundation.
Although I spoke with Alyson over the phone, I swore I could feel her smile as she reminisced over some of the events at the Freeman Stage, even though she herself had only been with the Foundation for little over a year. “Since 2008, the Freeman Stage at Bayside has contributed around $13 million to local Sussex county’s local economy in general. Michelle Freeman has referred to Sussex county and this area of Delmarva as sort of being an arts desert. We’ve been able to bring the arts to people who may not necessarily have an opportunity otherwise, without them having to travel to major metropolitan areas.”
Six quick facts about the Freeman Stage
- Tickets to most events are available online. Create an account with Eventbrite.com if you don’t already have one. It will make ordering tickets go more smoothly. You can purchase tickets through Freemanstage.org, Eventbrite.com or through the Eventbrite app.
- Freeman Stage at Bayside puts on lots of free programs, including a Saturday morning children’s series, Thursday shows, and most general admission shows are free for children ages twelve and under. To check for which shows are free please visit Freemanstage.org.
- This year’s program lineup is available here. There are a wide variety of unique and diverse performances in addition to tribute and national acts. New to the Freeman Stage this year is comedian Jay Leno and a new speaking event with Baltimore Ravens football player Justin Tucker. Justin has a degree in music, sings in seven different languages and has an arts background in addition to his football career.
- This year the Freeman Stage has gotten a face lift – the wooden stage was torn down after the last season and replaced with a mobile standard industry stage more commonly used at concert venues and festivals. This new stage will help with artist production in advance since this is a more standard stage to plan performances.
- The Joshua M. Freeman Foundation is a fundraising arts non-profit, public charity, just like the Freeman Stage. They have an arts in education program and an outreach program.
- The arts in education program is primarily in schools where they host the longest legacy mural project. In almost all middle schools in Sussex county, the Freeman Foundation worked one-on-one with 100% of students and teachers and local artist John Donato in painting murals of book spines, each with a different theme such as books, characters, etc. Look for them in a Sussex county middle school near you.
- The Freeman Foundation Outreach program works with nonprofits in Worcester and Sussex counties where they bring visitors to the stage in the summer to experience an arts event for those who otherwise would not be able to do so. Some of these visitors are from an Ocean City program called Believe in Tomorrow House on The Bay, which helps families in dealing with cancer or terminal illnesses. The outreach program helps them to find reprieve in the arts, even if for a couple hours or a day.
Time to Visit Freeman Stage at Bayside
If you’re like me and didn’t know about this concert hall at the beach, now is the time to pay them a visit. Alyson shared a couple of her most precious memories at the Freeman Stage at Bayside, such as the moment when school children from Worcester and Sussex counties jumped off their yellow busses with excitement in their faces as they prepared to see the arts for the first time. Last year the Freeman Stage bussed in over 8,000 students from towns more rural than coastal ones. Seeing them jump and dance afterwards as they returned to their busses brought joy to Alyson. Another moment she recalled was watching a senior citizen sitting in the back jamming and singing along with a performer as if he was back in his younger days watching David Bowie himself. Alyson reiterated, “Seeing that connection is a reminder of what the stage means to people. Either those happy memories are brought back or they are creating new ones.”
Photos courtesy of Doug Phillips, Creative and Digital Manager for the Freeman Foundation