The Big Arts Preview: What's Happening in Delaware

Mark your calendar for some of this season’s hottest events.


The start of fall means the arts season kicks in. Enjoy an embarrassment of riches, from a tribute to Amy Winehouse to the art of beloved children’s lit author-illustrator Maurice Sendak to the Big 50th anniversary season of the Newark Symphony Orchestra. Get your tickets now.

Biggs Museum of American Art 

Dover | Where are the wild things? Look no farther than Dover, when the Biggs Museum hosts an exhibition that celebrates beloved children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. The royal rumpus lasts until Sept. 11. On Oct. 7, the work of the godfather of modern underground art makes a very above-ground splash. Famous in big-city contemporary art circles, Clark Fox’s work critiques modern culture with stories of iconic figures from George Washington to Chef from “South Park.” Catch this sly Fox before he slips away. The Biggs hosts his work through Jan. 22.

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Brandywine River Museum of Art 

Chadds Ford, Pa. | Skyscrapers and glitzy streets are fancy and nice, but when it comes to oil on canvas, there’s nothing quite like the American countryside, coastal New England or a Midwestern farm. Catch all these gorgeous landscapes and more when the Brandywine River Museum puts on “Rural Modern: American Art Beyond the City” Oct. 29-Jan. 22. Check out the guest list including Georgia O’Keefe, Horace Pippin, Andrew Wyeth, Charles Burchfield and more. 

City Theater Company

Wilmington | Delaware’s Off-Broadway enters its 23rd season with another specially themed concert, “I Want My CTC,” a musical tour of the 1980s featuring CTC musicians, actors and friends directed by Joe Trainor at World Cafe Live at the Queen on Oct. 22. The mainstage season begins in December with an intimately staged “La Cage Aux Folles,” followed by the premiere of Delaware playwright David Robson’s “Afterbirth of a Nation;” Fearless Improv performances and adult improv classes; concluding in spring with the Delaware premiere of “Lizzie: The Musical,” a rock musical about the life of notorious ax murderer Lizzie Borden.

Clear Space Theatre

Rehoboth Beach | Anyone who tells you nothing goes on at the beach after Labor Day weekend has never been to Clear Space Theatre. The playbill is packed until the new year. The dramedy “How I Learned to Drive” kicks off the fall season Sept. 23 with the surprising and devastating tale of survival as seen through the lens of a troubling relationship between a young girl and an older man. Oct. 21-30 brings “The Last Five Years,” the story of autumn love in New York City. The intimate musical’s storytelling structure is two-fold: Cathy tells her love story backward, Jamie tells it chronologically, and the two share the stage only once, on their wedding day. The heartwarming classic “Meet Me in St. Louis” warms us up for the holidays Nov. 25 through Dec. 11 when the stage is transformed to the 1904 World’s Fair, where you’ll meet—and probably fall in love with—the Smith family. 

Delaware Art Museum

Wilmington | It’s all about Imaginative Realism for one very cool weekend in September at the Delaware Art Museum. The movement combines classical painting techniques with narrative subjects, with a focus on the unreal, the unseen and the impossible. The pop-up exhibition features 16 contemporary artists like Greg Hildebrandt, whom we can thank for the original “Star Wars” poster; Boris Vallejo, famous for his illustrations of Tarzan and Conan the Barbarian; and Donato Giancola, known for his paintings for Lucasfilm, DC Comics, Playboy and Syfy Channel. If you’ve got your geek card, get it stamped—over and over again—Sept. 23-25. The museum continues its love letter to contemporary art from October to January with “Truth & Vision: 21st Century Realism.” The two hottest trends in representational painting are the depiction of the natural world and the creation of fantastic imaginings. Together? It’s pretty smashing stuff. (In case you weren’t paying attention in art history class, the depiction of the natural world is a mode of painting with historical ties to the greater Brandywine Valley.) 

The Delaware Contemporary

Wilmington | One thing you can never say about The Delaware Contemporary (formerly the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts) is that it’s short on, well, anything. With new exhibits every month or more throughout the fall, you won’t miss a medium. Oct. 29-Jan. 29, Jury Smith’s ceramic sculpture is on display. Large-scale sculptures by Dane Winkler take center stage Nov. 11-March 11. “Due South,” curated and organized by Marianne Bernstein, showcases 30 accomplished artists from Philadelphia and Sicily who spent two years traveling between countries, creating work in response to the environment and culture. You can see it Jan. 28-April 30. 

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Delaware History Museum

Wilmington | The party continues as the Delaware Historical Society celebrates its big sesquicentennial. “Looking Back, Moving Forward: 150 Years at the Delaware Historical Society” at Willingtown Square Gallery looks at 150 years of society history through words, objects and images. Look for the museum to reopen after a major renovation this fall. 

Delaware Shakespeare Festival

In November, a professional production of Shakespeare’s “Pericles” will be performed at community centers, homeless shelters, detention facilities and other locations across the state as part of the festival’s mission to expose the arts to the underserved. But you can see performances at the Delaware History Museum in Wilmington Nov. 12-13 and Nov. 19-20. Don’t miss the spooky-fun Shakespeare/Poe performances at local historic sites in October. (Dates TBD.) And look for more about Shakespeare + St. Valentine in February. 

Delaware Symphony Orchestra

Wilmington | The DSO’s Classics Series begins Sept. 23 at The Grand Opera House with violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson performing the Double Concerto written for them by André Previn. The Chamber Series kicks off Oct. 18 with violinist David Southorn performing Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons at the Gold Ballroom in the Hotel du Pont. 

Delaware Theatre Company

Wilmington | Talk about the good old days: In 1979, Washington, D.C., was a place where fights started on the Senate floor ended with shared drinks and conversation. Of course, that would all change. “The City of Conversation” spans 30 years and six presidencies in the life of Hester Ferris, who throws the kind of dinner party that can change the course of D.C. politics. But what happens when her son grows up to adopt a shocking conservative worldview? See it Oct. 26-Nov. 13. “White Guy on the Bus” Feb. 1-19 follows the budding friendship between a wealthy businessman and a single mother who ride the same bus. As their pasts unfold, tensions rise and give way to an incendiary exploration of race that is fiery and disturbing. 

Dover Downs Hotel & Casino

Dover | The fall at Dover Downs belongs to the Tracys. First up, the unsinkable Tracy Morgan is back for mic drop after mic drop when he brings “Picking up the Pieces,” his one-man act, on Oct. 14. The Tracy train continues when country boy Tracy Lawrence comes to croon Nov. 25. Expect hits like “Sticks & Stones,” “Alibis” and “Time Marches On.” 

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Dover Symphony Orchestra

Dover | The Dover Symphony Orchestra’s concert season kicks off Oct. 9 with its Fall Classical Concert at the Schwartz Center for the Arts. Get the holiday bug Nov. 27 with “Ringing in the Holiday Season at Dover Downs,” the DSO’s exuberant family holiday extravaganza. Get poppy May 7 when the orchestra puts on its annual Pops Concert. 

First State Ballet Theatre

Wilmington | The 17th season of First State Ballet Theatre means one thing: a serious case of twinkle toes from Wilmington to the beach. Catch “Classical and Contemporary Ballet Highlights” on The Freeman Stage in Selbyville on Sept. 1. “Swan Lake” Oct. 22-23 tells the timeless love story between Prince Siegfried and Swan Queen Odette, set against the backdrop of good versus evil. The drama unfolds at The Grand. Get intimate with the ballet Nov. 11-12 at the Up Front at The Grand, where a small, select audience is graced with a gorgeous performance of classical and contemporary moves. What holiday season would be complete without “The Nutcracker”? Catch it at The Grand Dec. 17-18 or downstate at Delaware Tech Dec. 10. Feb. 18-19 has triple the treat: “Elegant Souls” includes selections from “Faust” and “Raymonda.” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” April 8-9 may just be the perfect ballet for everyone: comedy, adventure and forest fairies. What’s not to love? 

The Grand Opera House

Wilmington | You know what’s awesome? Male a capella. But not the stuffy khaki-and-blazer type. More like the super hip, nationally beloved and extraordinarily talented kind. Straight No Chaser celebrates 20 years with an unforgettable live show at The Grand Nov. 13. Bollywood comes to Wilmington Feb. 16 (Valentine’s Day date alert) in an explosion of sound, movement and color with Taj Express, a dance troupe-slash-theater group that delivers its art through a fusion of film, dance and music. Feb. 25, April Verch brings her signature sound—upright bass, guitar, clawhammer banjo, mandolin, fiddle—and pairs it with her fast-working feet for a sound and dance-stepping phenomenon. March comes in like a lion with the rhythm of DRUMline Live, which showcases the thrill, genius and flavor of a classic black college halftime show. Energy level? All the way up. 

The Candlelight Theatre

ArdentownTracy Turnblad of the big hair and bigger heart scores it big on “The Corny Collins Show” in “Hairspray,” which runs Sept. 17-Oct. 30. The theater gets a little Yuletide happy with “Christmas by Candlelight” Nov. 19-Dec. 23. And in March, you’re invited to sit down at the Round Table with King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and the gang.

Newark Symphony Orchestra

Newark | First things first: Can we get a round of applause for the Newark Symphony Orchestra? Not only does it have a season of gorgeous musical events on tap, but it also turns the big 5-0. To celebrate five decades of brilliance, NSO has pulled out all the stops. The season kicks off Oct. 30 with the big man, Mozart. Nov. 19 belongs to the ladies, with a special performance of music by composers Fanny Mendelssohn, Jennifer Nicole Campbell, Tae Sakamoto and others. On Feb. 11, don’t miss the chamber concert honoring Black History Month. If Alice Parker’s “Sermon From the Mountain” doesn’t stir you, we don’t know what will. March 5 marks a gorgeous collaboration between NSO and the Delaware Dance Company: Tchaikovsky’s suite from “Swan Lake” will be brought to breathtaking life. On March 11 at Newark Country Club, the symphony celebrates 50 years with a gala evening.


Wilmington | Join OperaDelaware’s Fall Studio Oct. 21 and Oct. 23 for an evening of music from the Bel Canto period. The Winter Studio Jan. 20 and Jan. 22 is all about the operatic bad boys—Devils and Drunks. What can possibly go wrong? Now that the boys have had their fun, the Spring Studio March 3 and March 5 is all about the ladies. 

The Playhouse on Rodney Square

Wilmington | The good news is you’ve got less than 525,600 minutes to wait for “Rent” to hit The Playhouse on Rodney Square; the bad news is, you’ve only got five chances Oct. 28-30 to see the show credited with forever changing the landscape of American theater. While November is typically reserved as a warm-up to the holiday huzzahs, try a little love and murder instead. “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” will be in town Nov. 15-20. The hauntingly beautiful “Once,” a singer-songwriter dream, ushers in the spring March 31-April 2.

Rehoboth Art League

Rehoboth Beach | Art is happening all season long at Rehoboth Art League. October and November are packed. Enjoy “In the Abstract,” a members’ showcase in which abstraction is explored through a variety of mediums. it runs with “Denkfigu,” a solo show of oils by Morgan Everheart, Oct. 21-Nov. 27. The Members Gallery of Art will keep you nice and cozy with warm, gorgeous work starting Dec. 1.

Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival

Rehoboth Beach | While we can’t give up all the goods quite yet—that is, what independent film gems will light up the marquee in Rehoboth Beach this fall—we can tell you that you must save the dates of Nov. 4-12 for the 2016 Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival. You can see more than 100 fantastic foreign and indie films. Theme to come, so stay tuned. 

Schwartz Center for the Arts

Dover | “A Tribute to Amy Winehouse” on Sept. 10 pairs the band Back 2 Amy playing before and after a screening of the award-winning documentary film “Amy.” If you’re a fan of the late pop songstress, this one can’t be missed. On Oct. 29, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, The Creature, Brad, Janet, Columbia, Magenta, Riff Raff and the whole wacky crew show up for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” 

World Cafe Live at The Queen

Wilmington | Legendary songwriter Leon Russell plays his hits Oct. 9. Catch soul artist Allen Stone Oct. 16 as he tours in support of his third full-length album. In November, reel in one of America’s long-standing and seemingly unlikely musical partnerships of Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet, otherwise known as Trout Fishing in America. They play Nov. 17. If you think a guy in a beret is funny, you’re going to think Gad Elmaleh is tears-running-down-your-face hysterical. The “Jerry Seinfeld of French Comedy” is the three-time host of the French Oscars. On Feb. 7, ooh-la-la becomes oh-ha-ha when “Oh My Gad” brings down the house. 

UD Resident Ensemble Players

Newark | “Clybourne Park,” winner of Pulitzer and Tony awards for its razor-sharp satirical examination of race, real estate and role-reversal, takes us back to 1959, when a white community tries to stop the sale of a home in their neighborhood to a black family. Fast-forward to 2009. The same house is for sale in what has become a predominately African-American neighborhood, and a white family wants in. Catch it Nov. 10-Dec. 4. The moving tale of John Merrick, the passionate soul trapped in a horrifying rare disease who became the unlikely toast of London society, comes to life in “The Elephant Man” March 2-19. Spring belongs to Molière when UD REP stages “Tartuffe,” a popular, wickedly funny play of deception, hypocrisy and false morality, April 20-May 7. 

University Museums

Newark | Through Sept. 25, University Museums at the University of Delaware hosts the original 1623 Shakespeare First Folio. Considered one of the most influential books of all time, the First Folio includes 36 plays, half of which were not published in his lifetime. The critical, rare book was published seven years after the Bard’s death. It will be accompanied by a six-panel exhibition exploring Shakespeare’s impact through the centuries. To be or not to be there? Is it even a question? 

Our Best of Delaware Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!

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