If you’ve been to Broadway, or experienced a professional actor performing up close, then you know what it feels like to be completely entranced.
There’s a confidence and power latent in performers. Supremely able and talented, able to control a room and whisk you away to another place. On March 3, Ali Stroker took over the McGann Conference Center of SJC Long Island.
In a presentation that opened with a story of a girl discovering her voice and passion for acting, and closed with a moving performance, Ali rendered all in attendance spellbound in her presence. Mystified. But never sorry.
Ali Stroker lost the use her legs at the age of two after a car accident, and is confined to a wheelchair. Her injury left her a reserved and shy young girl seeking meaning. And then she found the theater.
Ali began acting at age seven, when she starred in a production of Annie.
“I remember that moment at the end of the show when the audience was cheering and we took our bows, and it was like my life became real,” Ali said.
Watch Ali sing with the cast of “Spring Awakening” on “Late Night With Seth Meyers”
From starring on stages throughout her high school years, Ali then attended NYU before moving to Los Angeles. After attempting to gain a staring role on Glee and falling short, she was accepted into the second season of The Glee Project (a reality show whose winner would be cast on Glee). Ali came in second place, but nevertheless was offered a role in the show.
“That character changed my career,” Ali said. “I got a call from my agents that there was a production of Spring Awakening with a company called Deaf West Theater — a company that works with deaf actors and hearing actors who act and sign in the scenes.”
Deaf West’s production of Spring Awakening would migrate to Broadway, where it became a hit.
“What you put out into the world is what you receive. As somebody who is differently abled, and that is the language I like to use — I don’t really identify with ‘disabled’, it doesn’t feel like me — I realized that my wheelchair is my secret weapon. It is what sets me apart. It is what makes me real. And I think about who i would be without my chair. And that person would be totally different, and I feel so grateful to be in this body.”
From a devastating injury to breaking barriers as the first wheelchair-bound actress on Broaday, Ali Stroker knows all about turning limitations into opportunities. The event, presented by The Individual Needs Network (INN) and the SJC Drama Society, reinforced a powerful message: We are all of us stronger than we know.
“The Executive Board of the INN did an amazing job organizing the Ali Stroker event!” said Katherine Granelli, SJC professor and moderator for the Individual Needs Netowrk. “Ali was so moving that she brought me to tears many times throughout her presentation. She is a beautiful and courageous person both inside and out! The event was truly a life-changing experience.”
Learn More About the Individual Needs Network
Who we are: It is our purpose to raise awareness within the St. Joseph’s College Community toward individual needs. Students, faculty and staff will work together to create and maintain an inviting atmosphere that welcomes individuals who chose to make a positive impact.
Mission Statement: Our mission is to open minds toward meeting the physical, educational, social and emotional needs that supports inclusion for all. We want to educate people on universal design issues that continue to make St. Joseph’s College an accessible campus. Showcasing the many resources available here at the College that support individual needs as well as identifying new resources is a focal point of the group. We aim to educate staff, faculty, and students alike that each person has diverse, individual needs that need to be supported. We want to break the barriers that a stigma creates in order to support successful integration with the St. Joseph’s College community (peers, staff, students, and faculty). Our goal is to create an environment inclusive of the individual needs of all because no one should feel alone or left out.
Motto: There is always room at the INN!