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Former stripper bares it all in onstage memoir

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Mark Bonifacio/New York Daily News

Valerie Hager’s play, ‘Naked in Alaska,’ reveals her experiences working as a stripper for ten years. The play will be one of the productions at New York International Fringe Festival.

Like every personal journey, Valerie Hager’s individual odyssey has its ups and downs.

Hers just happens to be on a stripper pole.

The 350-pound portable post is a key prop in her play, “Naked in Alaska.” The memoir is one of the nearly 200 productions at the New York International Fringe Festival that kicks off Friday and runs through Aug. 25.

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Hager says her memoir 'Naked in Alaska' consists of 'a chair, a pole and me.'

Mark Bonifacio/New York Daily News

Hager says her memoir ‘Naked in Alaska’ consists of ‘a chair, a pole and me.’

“My show consists of a chair, a pole and me,” says Hager, who spins a dramatic — and aerobic — true-life tale drawing on her experiences as an exotic dancer.

For a decade, beginning in the mid-1990s, Hager shed her clothes (sometimes her top, sometimes every stitch) and shimmied her way through clubs in Tijuana, L.A. and Fairbanks, Alaska.

“Stripping is terrifying and exhilarating, dark and deep, hilarious and liberating,” she says. “It’s very complex.”

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Working as an exotic dancer for a decade, Hager would sometimes make more than $  2,000 a night.

Mark Bonifacio/New York Daily News

Working as an exotic dancer for a decade, Hager would sometimes make more than $ 2,000 a night.

And potentially lucrative.

On a bad night in the Frontier State, Hager would earn $ 800. A good night brought in $ 1,500. A very good night — $ 2,000-plus.

One survival trick of the trade she relied on was thinking of herself as a different person when she danced on stage — or on a man’s lap. She created an alter ego and called herself Autumn.

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Hager created her alter ego 'Autumn' so she could think of herself as a different person when she was dancing. 'Sometimes it was like ‘Fight Club’ with Valerie against Autumn,' Hager says.

Mark Bonifacio/New York Daily News

Hager created her alter ego ‘Autumn’ so she could think of herself as a different person when she was dancing. ‘Sometimes it was like ‘Fight Club’ with Valerie against Autumn,’ Hager says.

“Sometimes it was like ‘Fight Club’ with Valerie against Autumn,” she says. “There was a lot going on. And the show is more than what it’s like to be a stripper. It’s about the s— we have to face to get honest with who we are.”

For Hager, that means owning her history with eating disorders and drugs. “I’ve been clean for 20 years,” she says, “and completely quit dancing six years ago.”

Hager, 37, now lives on the upper West Side with her husband and their two dogs and works as a teaching artist.

Despite her show’s title, Hager is only topless for a brief, discreet flash when she changes her costume. At its heart, “Naked in Alaska” is about getting emotionally raw and letting it all hang out.

“I believe that even the things we’re told we shouldn’t talk about — the stories we pushed away, the moments we’ve had of shame, regret and failure — I believe these stories are the ones that need to be told the most.”

“Naked in Alaska” runs for five performances from Aug. 15 to 24 at the C.O.W., Celebration of Whimsy, 21 Clinton St. A full schedule is available at FringeNYC.org.

jdziemianowicz@nydailynews.com


Music & Arts – NY Daily News

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