When you walk into Celebration of Whimsy’s cozy little theater, you will likely be uncomfortable. Maybe it is the almost-naked woman dancing on a pole on stage or the sultry music accompanying her movements — whatever it is, before the show even starts, the audience can tell that this performance is not going to hold anything back.
“Naked In Alaska: The True Story of Stripping in the Last Frontier” is an intimate one-woman show written and performed by artist Valerie Hager. The show tells the story of her own life as a stripper. With a couple of props, a few costume changes, a pole and a chair, the audience’s attention is focused on Hager’s words and how she says them rather than the elaborate performance aspects.
Hager creates a sense of intimacy with her audience as she shares her journey from Los Angeles to Alaska. The show begins with a very distraught young Hager living at home in L.A. and struggling with bulimia and a crystal meth addiction. She talks about her best friend Raven who brought Hager to her first club in Tijuana. Raven is the reason Hager leaves to pursue dancing in Alaska.
With Hager’s arrival in Alaska comes a whole new era in her life. She is no longer the lost girl with no direction making minimum wage. She has blossomed into a talented exotic dancer for the Showboat in Fairbanks, Alaska. Easily a rising star in the world of dancing, her talent becomes a dividing force between her and Raven.
Along the way the audience meets fantastic characters, all played by Hager, such as Charlie, the loud-mouthed, over-eager dancer with more than a few flaws. Hager revelas intimate details of her love life, from her first boyfriend to the first time she kissed a woman. Some of the best characters she takes on are her customers, like the audacious cowboy or the burned widow.
Without seeing the show, it is easy to classify “Naked in Alaska” as a stereotype. It might seem like a one-time show that changes an audience’s perspective, but one they will never go back to because it is too sad. But this is not the case at all.
“Naked in Alaska” deals with upsetting topics, and there are moments when our mouths are left dangling at what Hager went through. However, these instants are interspersed with perfect comic timing and enjoyable dance numbers, making for a wonderful show.
“Naked in Alaska” is playing through March 1 at the Celebration of Whimsy Theater, located at 21 Clinton St.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Feb. 13 print edition. Jordan Sternberg is a contributing editor. Email him at email@example.com.