Play Exposes Society’s Dark Undercurrents

By Beacon Staff

Fair warning: “I Stand Before You Naked” isn’t your “Hello, Dolly!” sort of play. Not that it won’t be funny and entertaining at times, said co-director Leah Lindsay, but the play aims to serve a broader purpose, too.

“We choose this play because it represents a lot of the issues people here in the community deal with – eating disorders, rape, homicide, co-dependency, pain and suffering,” Lindsay said. “Hopefully people will come and enjoy it – it’s a great play – but also start thinking or talking about some of these topics that are sometimes hard to address.” “I Stand Before You Naked” is a compilation by Joyce Carol Oates, an author, playwright and creative writing professor at Princeton University, of 10 short pieces that mirror the lives of 10 different women.

The play is the first production by the Two Rivers Healing Arts Theater Project. Leigh Schickendantz, who works as a counselor and consultant at Two Rivers Center for Holistic Counseling and Healing Arts, said the theater project was an upshot of a core group of four women who work “in the trenches” with at-risk youth throughout the community. “There was a group of us who, through our own individual work, each recognized a need to focus on gender specific issues and serve at-risk females in a different way,” Schickendantz said.

In the past three years, the core group has led presentations and workshops on topics ranging from self-mutilation to helping males working in human services feel comfortable dealing with female issues. The group uses presentation revenue to fund a scholarship called, Pay it Forward, which pays for youth to participate in the healing arts – anything from sports to music.

When Schickendantz met Lindsay and Amy Ponich – the play’s co-directors – she said she knew the women needed a venue to share their art and talent. “They both had such talent in these healing arts (theater and music, respectively), but they needed an opportunity to funnel that in a way that it would be an agent for change.”

“I Stand Before You Naked” opens Friday, Oct. 19 at 8 p.m. and has performances on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. Performances also run the following weekend, Oct. 26-28 at the same times, respectively. All performances are in the KM Theater, in the KM Building in downtown Kalispell. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors. The play does contain adult content and strong language.

Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Pay it Forward scholarship fund and the Flathead Attention Home, a short-term shelter for youth who face a family crisis, have acted out or whose placement has broken down. “I think people are interested in helping address these issues but don’t always know how. This is such a simple way to get involved and help; their ticket will be a vehicle to help a kid out maybe two years from now,” Schickendantz said.

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