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BWW Interview: Ali Stroker On AN EVENING WITH ALI STROKER at Westport Country Playhouse

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See Tony Award winner Ali Stroker in Westport.

BWW Interview: Ali Stroker On AN EVENING WITH ALI STROKER at Westport Country Playhouse

Show business is a tough business to break into even for those who have great training, good looks, amazing talent, and even good connections. Now imagine if you had to compete for roles while using a wheelchair. Meet Ali Stroker.

Stroker, now 34, has been in a wheelchair since the age of two, following a serious car accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. When she was seven years old, she was introduced to musical theatre and "fell completely in love with it," she says. "It felt like was introduced to something that set me free.... When I sing, I don't feel any limitations. That was huge for me [being free to] express myself with no limitations."

She began playing lead roles at the age of seven, starting with Annie. At 14, she played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. "People trusted me to play the lead," she recalls. It helped that she developed self-confidence at an early age thanks to performing. "Confidence comes from a trust in yourself," she believes. "When I was singing and acting and dancing, I did trust myself. I felt so much joy. If something is bringing me joy, I feel good [and] confidence is being portrayed."

A Ridgewood, New Jersey native, Stroker started formal theatre training at the Paper Mill Playhouse's Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory program. She was also the first actress who uses a wheelchair to earn a degree in fine arts from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

Stroker's most challenging role was with Deaf West Theatre's 2015 revival of Spring Awakening on Broadway, which was done completely in American Sign Language. She had her fellow cast members "had to learn a new language while learning the words and choreography. It was one of my favorite experiences on stage."

Stroker, who appeared in Spring Awakening, considers Ado Annie in Oklahoma her favorite theatre role so far. "That was such a blast," she recalls. She won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress for that role, making her the first actress who uses a wheelchair for mobility to do win that award. But there are other roles she would still like to play, including Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors and to originate roles in theatre. "I'm really looking forward to working on camera," she says. "Creating art on film allows so many people to see it." She has already appeared on Glee, Ten Days in the Valley, Lethal Weapon, and Instinct.

She also performs in solo concerts and will appear on July 24 in An Evening with Ali Stroker at the Westport Country Playhouse (www.westportplayhouse.org). Incidentally, 10 years ago, the Playhouse featured Darius de Haas in a wheelchair in its production of Twelfth Night. Shortly before the show opened, he injured his Achilles' heel. BroadwayWorld was thrilled with his "fluid and natural" performance and wrote, "Note to casting directors: Look beyond any disabilities a performer may have." After her Westport Country Playhouse performance, she will perform at Little Island in New York (www.littleisland.org). Visit her at www.alistroker.com.


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