Listen on Soundcloud:
Ali Stroker made history by being the first actress in a wheelchair to appear on a Broadway stage, originating the role of Anna in Deaf West’s revival of Spring Awakening.
In this interview, Ali shares her journey: from paralysis at age 2 to being the first person in a wheelchair to earn a degree from NYU’s Tisch Drama Department to living her dream of performing on Broadway. As a special treat, hear Ali sing the first song that she ever performed on a stage.
This is one talented and inspiring woman and you’ll learn about all of this and more from her in our talk!
Here are some of Ali’s interview takeaways:
-I was told my whole life that I could not feel my legs. But as I become less afraid of what that means, the more sensation I feel like I’m getting.
-I was introduced to theater when I was 7 years old, which really is when I remember my life beginning. When I found theater, it was like the light at the end of the tunnel. When i was injured at age 2, it was really traumatizing and I was very shy. I got really shy after the accident. Finding theater and being on stage, something happened: I came out of my shell and learned how much I loved playing characters and singing and singing made me feel so good.
-Having a spinal cord injury, your physical movement is limited. My voice wasn’t affected, so when I sing, it feels like freedom.
-I started looking at colleges and when I would go to look at campuses, it was the first time in my life where I realized that my wheelchair was a thing for people. Because the town that I grew up in, everyone was so supportive and really knew our story. The town really rallied around our family after I got hurt. To be out in the real world where people are not necessarily aware of why I’m in a chair and what my situation is, it was so clear right away if i was going to fit or not based on how I felt with the culture and the community of people (on these campuses).
-There was a lot of fear and hesitation at first (at NYU’s theater program). They were really concerned about how they were going to make the curriculum work for someone in a wheelchair. At the time it was really scary because I was like: ‘oh, this is going to be really hard.’ And then I realized: I’m going to have to pave all of these roads for myself and there are people that are going to get in the way because they are afraid or they don’t know or they aren’t educated and I realized I’m also going to have to educate people and help them move through their fears as well as deal with my own.
-I realized very early on that in order for me to achieve these dreams and these goals of mine I was going going to have to get people to help me and get them on board. And, if they were afraid, not only were they not going to get on board but they were going to stand in my way. So I had to learn how to communicate and articulate my needs and also go slowly to not freak anybody out.
Find & Follow:
(Published May 2016)