2019 tony awards

Oklahoma!’s Ali Stroker Becomes First Wheelchair-Using Performer to Take Home a Tony

Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Only four years after becoming the first wheelchair user to star in a Broadway play (specifically, Deaf West Theater’s 2015 revival of Spring Awakening), Ali Stroker has become the first wheelchair user to take home a Tony Award, winning for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for her turn as Ado Annie in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! “Thank you, thank you so much,” the actress said during her emotional acceptance speech. “This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, a limitation, a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena. You are.”

Backstage in the press room, Stroker hoped her win would help encourage the next generation of disabled up-and-coming performers. “It makes me feel amazing to be able to be that for them [younger people with disabilities], because I did not have that,” she said. “As an 11 year-old girl pursuing this dream, I was looking to see who is there and who is working and has disabilities or is in a wheelchair and there was nobody. So it’s a really, amazing, amazing feeling.”

And while she’s on the subject, added Stroker, Broadway’s theaters themselves need to step up and make sure they’re actually accommodating all their potential stars. “The theaters, the house where all the audience comes in, that is all made accessible to the patrons, but the backstage isn’t at all,” the actress explained. “I would ask theater owners and producers to really look into how they can begin to make the backstage accessible, so that performers with disabilities can get around.”

Oklahoma’s Ali Stroker First Wheelchair User to Win Tony