I love an autobiography. I love when people share their truth. I love to listen to how people get through a difficult time.
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. Then I saw 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. Also, I have the perfect opportunity to learn more about the project from the artist herself. Naked in Alaska is running for 5 performances in this summer's Fringe Festival. It is listed by Backstage as one of the 10 SHOWS TO SEE; Daily News featured Valerie and the show in their arts section; and the New Yorker has her featured on page 14 of this month's issue. Click HERE for show and ticket information.
Malini: When did you have the epiphany to tell this particular story through a theatrical performance?
Valerie: My story began when I moved to New York City in 2009 from Los Angeles. I was at a place in my life where I knew I needed to make a radical change. I’d been living in L.A. for ten years pursuing the Hollywood dream. And I was stuck. The career I'd been pursuing hadn't turned into a way of making anything close to a living. And I was at a loss of how to move forward. I began to think that nothing about me was unique enough to get people's attention and that I should just give up on my dreams. But I didn’t. Instead I moved to New York City. I was hungry for a second chance. And then there I was in this empty apartment unpacking and looking through the dozens of journals and hundreds of pictures that I had been carrying around with me for so many years. And I suddenly saw this girl who I'd forgotten about. This young girl who was a secret bulimic for over a decade, who became a crystal meth addict and was expelled from high school, who chose to strip for a living because the validation she got in the clubs was more than she had known outside of them. And it was here, I was reminded of this girl who I had somehow pushed down myself and judged as wrong. It was in these long nights in my new apartment—that I realized this girl was still very much alive inside of me. I was still afraid of stepping into the strength of my voice and honoring—not hiding—my past. I was still tied to this belief that what I had been through—as a kid who failed school, a former addict, a career stripper—was a curse and not a gift. And, for whatever reason, moving to New York and experiencing the gift of a second chance, opened me up to ask what might happen if I really faced the secrets buried in these journals, staring back at me in these photographs. So there began this exploration of the past. This emergence of two selves: the terrified young girl I was and the fragmented woman I became. Who underneath were not so different and who both shared a deep yearning to live a life of meaning and purpose. One that was free of shame, self-judgement, and fear. And so there I was with all of that and I realized, there was no turning back.
Malini: Since you have been performing the piece, have you had a moment of "I don't want to do this"? And if so, what made you say to yourself, "I HAVE to."
Valerie: Never. Naked In Alaska is my choice. It stands up for the things we're told we shouldn't talk about--the stories we push away, the moments we've had of shame, regret, and failure--and I believe that those stories are often the ones that need to be told the most. Because by sharing those stories, by refusing to give them power over us, and instead welcoming them as a part of us, we have the potential of stepping into the whole of who we truly are. I think that is why I have never had a moment of "I don't want to do this". Naked In Alaska has changed my life. It has given me a voice and a platform to share my heart with others and to make a difference with my story. Even if that difference is only one person. One heart sitting out in the audience that leaves feeling less alone. I never imagined I could have a life like this! That a life like this was possible for someone like me. And I am grateful for every moment that Naked In Alaska has given me to grow, to expand, and to share my story with so many beautiful people.
Malini: Has the purpose of telling your story changed over time?
Valerie: The purpose has deepened for sure! It began as a way for me to break free from the judgement of my own past and instead use Naked In Alaska as platform for change in my own life. To stand in the deepest truth inside of myself and in the world. But then once I started sharing Naked In Alaska more and more on various stages and in workshops throughout the city everything shifted. I began to sense that there was a bigger purpose. And then this kind of rebirth happened. This ripping away of any separateness in my story and instead there was this deep relatedness with others. This connectedness that I discovered existed in all of our stories and through that this profound liberation happened. A liberation I feel happens when we share courageously with one and other. I especially saw the impact that Naked In Alaska could have on young women and this opened up a treasure chest of idea's and avenues that I'd never imagined! Naked In Alaska has shifted from a story about my healing into one that now each time I perform is for every soul sitting in the audience. A show that I continue to dedicate to the phoenix, the fierce one in us all. Naked In Alaska is no longer Naked In Alaska, Valerie's story. Naked In Alaska, is our story. Hear us roar!
Be sure to check out the show while there are still tickets, and also you can support their IndieGoGo campaign HERE
And with that I couldn't forget about all of my cherished friends and family who have supported and encouraged Naked In Alaska every step of the way! Lastly, Naked in Alaska could not have been shaped into what it is now without the teachings of Matt Hoverman the nurture and belief of Cheryl King, the insight of Cullen Thomas, and the brilliance and specificity of my director and beloved Scott Wesley Slavin. Now GO! And rock the world with YOUR blazing story!