SELBYVILLE — The planning for the 2020 season at The Freeman Stage began soon after the last performance last year, but what would have been the organization’s biggest lineup to date had to be shelved when the pandemic struck.
While the nation was in quarantine, the nonprofit pivoted its programming to provide virtual arts experiences via social media and local schools. Its staff and Board of Directors closely monitored the ever-changing landscape presented by COVID-19, continually evaluating alternative options that allowed the stage to stay true to its mission while respecting the mandates from government and public health officials.
On Thursday, The Freeman Stage announced it is moving forward with a special season of the arts — one which will have reduced capacity to comply with physical distancing guidelines and will primarily showcase local and regional talent.
“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. We are going to do that by presenting the arts at a right-sized scale due to COVID-19.”
The Freeman Stage plans to present local artists — many of whom haven’t been able to perform some quarantine began — and hope to start the season in early July. Thanks to a grant from the PNC Foundation and the Delaware Community Foundation, the Young Audience Series, which features free children shows typically held Saturday mornings, will also take place.
Because the organization is starting from scratch in terms of a lineup, there will be a rolling announcement 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 will be periodically evaluated as the season progresses to determine if any adjustments are warranted.
“As we navigate these unprecedented times, safety has always been our No. 1 priority so we’re using this pod approach to give people some freedom while still being able to maintain physical distance,” she said. “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.”
The Freeman Stage, which is located four miles west of Fenwick Island, is a program of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, who partners to present memorable performances and provide inspired arts education for all.