Middle Way House’s third annual benefit “Love Songs for a Lasting World” will be performed 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.
It will honor the life and work of the organization's former executive director, Toby Strout, who died in February 2017 at age 71. All proceeds from the event will benefit Middle Way House.
Middle Way House seeks to bring awareness to domestic abuse, sexual violence and human trafficking, as well as provides victims the means to escape their situation and build a new life. Its services include emergency shelter housing, transitional housing, legal help, child care and more.
The 90-minute performance is being produced by Toby Strout's daughter, Anna Strout, and Bloomington-based composer Malcolm Dalglish, creative director for the event. It will feature songs by Dalglish, as well as performances by IU students and his group, the Ooolites. It will also present new work by choreographer Jun Kuribayashi, a former artistic associate with Polibulos, a modern dance company.
Anna Strout said this year’s performance of “Love Songs for a Lasting World” will serve as a tribute to her mother’s life and work with Middle Way House.
Anna Strout's husband, actor Jesse Eisenberg, is one of the event's major sponsors and is a supporter of Middle Way House.
"It was shocking to learn about, but even more so shocking to learn how prevalent issues of sexual violence and sexual assault were," Eisenberg said.
Anna Strout said the performance is open to audiences of all ages and will culminate in eating pie around a bonfire outside South Washington Street, next to the theater.
Toby Strout followed her passion for social justice by moving to Bloomington to earn her Ph.D. in instructional systems technology from IU’s School of Education. In 1987, she began her 30-year tenure as executive director of Middle Way House.
She oversaw the organization's growth in buildings and facilities, the expansion of its services to regions beyond Bloomington and the closing of a mortgage on the New Wings facility, which opened in 2010.
Anna Strout said her mother was very active in the Bloomington community. She frequently guest lectured at IU and worked with sororities, such as Alpha Chi Omega and Kappa Delta, to spread awareness of sexual violence issues.
Middle Way House is the best run organization he has worked with, Eisenberg said.
"As an actor and somebody in the public eye, I'm asked to be involved in a lot of charities and nonprofits," Eisenberg said. "I've never seen an organization run so efficiently, where every dollar is spent so responsibly, where every employee feels respected and is part of the mission of the organization."
Anna Strout said the performance brings together many parts of the Bloomington community.
IU senior Brian Kress, a theater and drama major, will perform in the event. Additionally, as Dalglish’s assistant, Kress runs rehearsals and will run administrative tasks for the show.
Kress said he would sing “Blackbird” by the Beatles, as well as a number of Dalglish’s own compositions, including “Lasting World,” “The Broken Ground,” "The Peace of Wild Things” and the show closer, a gospel work called “Walking on Air.”
Strout said they chose to present the event in February because people are often isolated in their homes and do not go out during the winter.
“We wanted to bring people together and bring awareness to domestic violence, sexual assault," Anna Strout said.
Eisenberg said that the performance can be hard to describe on paper.
“It’s the kind of thing that on paper seems undefinable,” Eisenberg said. “It’s somewhere I would say between cabaret revue, performance art and call to action.”
He said the performance addresses heavier themes of sexual violence in an indirect way and that the show is more about communities working together.
“The performance is not didactic, heavy-handed or politically explicit,” Eisenberg said. “It’s a really fun, uplifting performance.”
Anna Strout said she wants to celebrate the lasting work of her mother and her organization by building a safer, more caring world.
“It moves between joyous celebration, meditation and call to action,” Anna Strout said.
This story was updated to clarify a quote from Anna Strout on general isolation felt during the winter.