Freeman Stage at Bayside announces 2017 lineup

Celebrating its 10th season bringing arts to Sussex County, the Freeman Stage at Bayside is promising to continue doing just that, and in grand style, as it announced on March 15 its summer season lineup.

Notable acts gracing the stage this summer include comedian Jay Leno (June 30), country musician Hunter Hayes (July 28), and musical acts Chicago (Aug. 1) and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue (Aug. 3).

“This is the beginning of a great season,” said Michelle Freeman, chairman and president of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, at the March 15 season reveal. “Come support the arts in Sussex County.”

Other national acts include Tedeschi Trucks Band on June 17; Baltimore Raven’s kicker and opera singer Justin Tucker on June 18; the Stray Cat Lee Rocker on June 24; 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; Michael Franti & Spearhead on July 29; Sutton Foster on July 30; Mary Chapin Carpenter on Aug. 8; and Joey Alexander Trio on Aug. 12.

Tickets for the 10th season go on sale Monday, April 3, at 10 a.m.

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

Crowd favorites who will once again grace the stage include the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, the First State Ballet, Clear Space Theatre and Brown Box Theatre Company.

“Locals Under the Lights,” where local artists have their moment in the spotlight, will also be back this summer.

On Sept. 8, Bruce in the USA, a Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band tribute act, will return to perform, and special guests from Operation SEAs the Day — a week-long beach event for wounded military veterans and their families — will be in attendance.

The Freeman Stage is a program of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation. The program is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. Grant support is also provided by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, the Sussex County Council and the State of Delaware.

The Freeman Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was created in 2007, to honor Josh Freeman, who lost his life unexpectedly in 2006.

“The Freeman Stage began as a way for me to honor my husband while also celebrating something we both love — the arts,” Freeman said.

Freeman went on to dedicate the 10th season not only to Josh Freeman, but also to her mother- and father-in-law, Virginia and Carl Freeman.

“My mother-in-law was an artist, a writer, a poet, a sculptor. My father-in-law was born to Jewish parents with nothing. He came to this country and built a company, and then he built a foundation really based in the philanthropic view that to whom much is given much is expected.”

In its first season, the Stage welcomed a total of 13,000 patrons. Last year, 62,000 patrons enjoyed the arts under the stars. Over its first nine seasons, a total of 322,000 people attended shows at Freeman. (This year will also mark the debut of a new, upgraded stage.)

Through partnerships, the Freeman Stage has been able to expose 80,000 local school-age children to the arts.

Freeman also praised her own parents for helping expose her to the arts as a young child growing up in Wilmington, Del.

“My dad got together a little bit of money, and I was able to attend a Saturday theater performance — every other Saturday, I think it was — at the DuPont Theater. It was a time in my life when I was going off the rails a little bit. The arts gave me hope. And the arts brought me joy. And the arts reminded me that the world was bigger than Wilmington, Del. I’d like to think some of those 80,000 children leave feeling the way I felt leaving the DuPont Theater.”

Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson noted that on cold, windy days such as Wednesday, “We all dream of those July evenings at the Stage.”

Lawson said the County is proud to work with the Freeman Foundation and pay for the transportation of Sussex County school children to arts shows at the Freeman Stage.

“This is a big deal. This is huge,” he said. “It’s more than just the arts and the performances we’ve experienced here at the Stage. It’s the asset that this stage has become to this community, to this county, to this state.”

“Thousands of Sussex County children have had their lives enriched” at the “little stage that could,” added Stephanie Cohen, a volunteer since 2008, and stage sponsor.

Gov. John Carney visited the Stage for the first time ever on Wednesday.

“I’ve been to just about every corner of our state… except right here. This is my first time here.”

Carney thanked Freeman for enlivening Sussex County arts exposure.

“Thank you for what you’re doing for our state. It’s really important, and it’s fun.”

Although U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) could not attend the event in person, he recorded a video message that was played during the season reveal.

“We’re really lucky to have the Freeman Stage in Delaware and Delmarva. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.”

For more information on this season’s events, or to find out how to volunteer at The Freeman Stage, call (302) 436-3015 or visit