Tony Award Winner Has Advice for Young People

Award-winning actress Ali Stroker plays Dorothy in a childhood performance of The Wizard of Oz

When the winner of the 2019 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical rolled onto the stage, the audience erupted in applause.

“This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, who has a limitation or a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena,” said actress Ali Stroker, who won for her performance in Oklahoma!

In 2015, Stroker made history when she performed in a revival of Spring Awakening. She was the first actor in a wheelchair ever to appear in a Broadway production. Four years later, she became the first actor in a wheelchair to be nominated for and win theater’s highest award. “It was one of the most amazing moments of my life,” Stroker recalled during our recent video interview. 

At the age of two, Stroker was in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. That didn't stop her from following her dreams, including performing on the stage. 

More recently, she has drawn on her passion for musical theater and memories from middle school to co-author two novels. The first, The Chance to Fly, was published in 2021 by Harry N. Abrams. The latest title, Cut Loose!, was released in late 2023. Both books are co-authored by Stacy Davidowitz. 

The series chronicles the challenges and triumphs of Nat Beacon, an eighth-grade girl who uses a wheelchair. Readers follow along as Nat auditions for and performs in musicals. 


Stroker with Stacy Davidowitz, the co-author of her middle grade book series 


In addition to writing, acting, and advocating for people in need, Stroker regularly performs a one-woman show which she wrote herself. When I asked why she writes, given all the demands on her time, Stroker responded immediately. “I write for little Ali, who needed these books,” she said.

For the fictional titles, Stroker drew upon her struggles growing up. “I was so aware of the fact that I was different,” she said, “and at the time, I didn’t like feeling different.”

Now she’s eager to share her well-earned advice with young people. “If you feel different,” Stroker said, “if you feel like you don’t fit in, one day that will be your greatest gift—to be unique, to be original.”

Stroker’s parents were instrumental in helping her appreciate her many talents. They fully supported her passion for musical theater. They also emphasized positivity, especially during her middle school years. It’s a lesson she has carried with her into adulthood.

“Stay positive, and focus on the things that you do have control over,” Stroker said. “You may not have control over who you’re sitting with at lunch, but you do have control over your attitude.”

Photos courtesy of Ali Stroker