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Apr. 17—A car accident when she was 2 confined Ali Stroker to a wheelchair. As she got older, she couldn't help but notice people staring at her. She soon discovered that her love of music, the theater and performing gave her a way to take command of the attention.
"When I was little, I became aware people would stare at me, but when I was on stage, I was able to take my power back," she said. "I knew why they were staring at me then. It was like I had found a place where I was in charge. I also loved storytelling."
Thanks to her strong will and a supportive network of family and friends, Stroker has turned that experience into a trailblazing, award-winning career that has taken her to Broadway and television.
On Thursday, she will present "Breaking Boundaries on Broadway With Ali Stroker" as a fundraiser for Siskin Children's Institute. There is no charge for the program, though donations are encouraged and registration is required. During the presentation, she will talk about her new book about following her dreams, "The Chance To Fly," and the various causes she supports.
Stroker is a co-chair of Women Who Care, which supports United Cerebral Palsy of New York City. She's a founding member of Be More Heroic, an anti-bullying campaign that tours the country and connects with thousands of students each year. Her devotion to educating and inspiring others took Stroker to South Africa with Artists Striving To End Poverty's ArtsInsideOut, where she held theater workshops and classes for women and children affected by HIV and AIDS.
Stroker's remarkable ability to improve the lives of others through the arts, whether disabled or not, is captured in her motto: "Making Your Limitations Your Opportunities."
"As I've gotten older and know myself more and trust myself more, I don't feel the need to be in as much control as I did before. Now, when the audience is watching, I just do what I."
In 2019, she became the first actor in a wheelchair to win a Tony Award, which she earned for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as Ado Annie in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!"
Stroker made history in 2015 as the first actress in a wheelchair to appear on Broadway when she originated the role of Anna in Deaf West Theatre's revival of the rock musical "Spring Awakening." She is also the first actress in a wheelchair to graduate from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts drama program.
Since graduating from Tisch, Stroker starred on 12 episodes of Oxygen's "The Glee Project." She placed second in the competition and won a guest role on Fox's "Glee." She then recurred in the Kyra Sedgwick ABC series, "Ten Days in the Valley." She also guest-starred on Fox's "Lethal Weapon," CBS' "Instinct" and Comedy Central's "Drunk History."
She has soloed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as well as at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Carnegie Hall and Town Hall in New York, as well as performed her cabaret act at Green Room 42 in New York.
The last few years, she said, have been "an incredible dream come true."
Stroker said her father "is a dreamer" who taught high school and coached basketball and football for 36 years. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom who believed her children should find something they were passionate about and pursue it.
"For them, it was always full steam ahead, and they never let on that I couldn't do everything I wanted," Stroker said of her parents.
Stroker said she believes "she is doing what she is meant to be doing" and doesn't have a wish list or set of unmet goals.
"I feel like I'm always receiving the prize," she said. "I've worked so hard, and I'm so excited about everything I'm doing."
"I just want to create authentic representations and make and create stories that are important for people to hear. I feel like I have arrived, and I'm doing all the things I care about."
"I believe in turning your limitations into your opportunities, and it doesn't matter who you are. We all have challenges. I think I'm living proof that when you work hard and are a good person and give back, you will find some light. I've been on both sides of it."
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.