Oh boy! It’s getting hot in here. I met Valerie Hager after a performance of her one-woman show, Big Man, at Stage Left Studio. I was instantly blown away by her performance and felt totally bummed that I missed Naked in Alaska in the EstroGenius Festival last year (yes, she was in the 5 % that I didn’t get to see!). Since it’s the same 7 people in theatre, it wasn’t too much of a surprise that we shared a mutual friend in my best guy pal, Cas Marino. I eventually did see Naked in Alaska at Dixon Place and knew I had to be a part of it in some way. And I am. As Marketing Director, I have the best opportunity to get people to see this piece of art. However, when it comes to really capturing the spirit of the show in words, I turn to Cas. Here’s his two cents:
Never, in my experience has Alaska been so damned hot.Nor has being naked been so damned meaningful.That being said, in discussing Valerie Hager’s one-woman lightening bolt, “Naked in Alaska”, we’re not talking about the actual climate of the Last Frontier, or the actual state of undress this artist just barely denies us with a few lacy and fringed bits of propriety; we’re talking about an audience’s mounting passion for a story and a cast of characters that hits in waves of empathy and curiosity and delight as a brutally honest young woman lays bare her true story of life as an exotic dancer, with an equally brutal courage that allows us to journey with her from the Deep South to the Way North and back, instead of merely sitting in the dark watching a staged version of some well-organized postcards.You don’t see “Naked in Alaska”.You absorb it.So much so that to call it what it is in theatrical terms — a One-Woman Show — is to do the piece an absolute disservice, and to completely undervalue the One Woman whose show and story and naked truth we meet here.The dozen or so characters embodied by Hager as she invites us into the gritty details and relationships and decisions that manifest in her sweeping story so instantly become as real in our temporary life with her as they were in her own.The diminutive Hager needs only to affect a change in stature, a flip of her flowing hair, or a curl of her lip, and a whole other person has joined or replaced her entirely on the stage. She is simply that adept at pulling us into her private universe — so much so that we have no choice but to feel the presence of each of the characters that had, quite obviously, such a profound effect on her experience in this period of her life that they now impact us similarly as we share in it momentarily.It is beyond rare to find an artist who is at once this gifted a storyteller with this level of craft and acting chops, who also has the power to write with such a visceral glow as to not simply deliver a monologue to an audience, but to virtually bring her audience inside her own head to experience that internal monologue right along with her.The fact that the gorgeous Ms. Hager is also worth every dollar bill in your pocket when it comes to her mastery of the brass pole, which she works onstage to punctuate her story the way a seasoned novelist painstakingly employs ellipses and exclamation marks, is more than just a bonus for the visual aesthetes in the house.Expertly directed by Scott Slavin, who knows the artist with an intimacy that shows in every aspect of the work, this microburst of theatrical brilliance will have you so engaged and leave you so enamored of the life that is Valerie Hager’s autobiography-in-progress, that if they’re anything like “Naked in Alaska”, such possible sequels as “Wearing Jeans in Starbucks” or “Throwing on a Robe because the Chinese Takeout Delivery Rang the Bell” couldn’t possibly be anything less that completely satisfying.Cas Marino is an actor, singer, and director in New York City. His work as a spoken word artist and monologist has been seen by a wide variety of audiences, as well as his national television and radio appearances. As a freelance writer, he’s covered topics in print and online media ranging from pop culture and sexuality to food, fitness, nutrition, and theater.