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Ali Stroker on Winning the Tony: ‘I Was Meant to Be in This Seat’

Category: Art & Culture,Theater

What drew you to Ado Annie?

She doesn’t ever apologize for who she is. She doesn’t have any shame about who she is. Her wants, her desires, are so clear. And her desire to explore, through sexuality and relationship, feels so true for me. Her line — “How can I be what I ain’t?” — so many girls need to hear that. So many people need to hear that.

[How Ali Stroker dances in a wheelchair.]

Do you ever see people in chairs in the audience for “Oklahoma!”?

I do, and I’m always so excited. The other night two Paralympian wheelchair racers came to the show. And still, for me, seeing me in someone else is a powerful, powerful feeling. Something happens in my heart. I feel a calmness.

You’ve expressed some concern about accessibility at Broadway theaters. What is your concern?

These theaters are really old in New York, and they’ve made the houses accessible for patrons, but the backstages have not been made accessible. If I were to get another show, it would be another conversation about how to make the backstage accessible. Here at Circle in the Square, they put in a chairlift for me, and full ramping so I can get to both sides of the stage, and an accessible bathroom. It’s great. It’s necessary. And it’s time.

How do you feel about being a symbol?

I feel excited and I feel proud and I hope there are so many more soon.

Do you get tired or resentful about answering these questions?

No. I know in many ways that this is what I was born to do. When a little baby is injured, you always wonder why. And I think for my parents it’s so clear I was meant to be in this seat, to bring my joy, and my light, and my love, to something that a lot of our culture and a lot of our society looks at as just a shame, or a tragedy. I don’t think any part of my life is not meant to be.

I often think of singers drawing themselves up to full height to belt, but you are demonstrating that that’s not necessary.

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