If you’re a Gleek or Spring Awakening fan, then you probably know of actress Ali Stroker—but did you know that before she became a television and Broadway star, Ali attended Camp Broadway? We recently saw Ali in the revival of Spring Awakening, and had the chance to talk with her about her experience on Broadway and memories from her days as a CB’er!
Ali can currently be seen in the newly re-imagined production at the Brooks-Atkinson Theatre, which transferred from Deaf West Theater’s limited run in Los Angeles. The coming-of-age rock musical by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik is adapted from the 1891 play by German writer, Frank Wedekind. The production, which features a cast of both hearing and deaf actors, is performed simultaneously in American Sign Language and English. Recently, the production was honored with the Champion of Change Award by the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities for shining the spotlight on performers of all abilities. With her debut in this production, Ali Stroker has made history by becoming the first actor in a wheel chair to perform on Broadway.
Ali has been with this production of Spring Awakening since it played its first month-long run at a 99-seat theater in Los Angeles. It then extended its run, moving to a larger theater in Beverly Hills before making the move to Broadway. For Ali, being a part of this production has been a life-changing experience, between learning American Sign Language and fulfilling her dream of performing on Broadway. “It is the most exciting time I’ve ever experienced in my life. It’s a perfect fit and I feel so lucky and blessed to be a part of it.”
For Ali, learning sign language took time, but she shared that the need and desire to communicate with her fellow cast members motivated her and she has since become very close with her cast members who are deaf. This production of Spring Awakening, which showcases performers with disabilities, is inspiring and encouraging to those in similar situations who aspire to perform. To those who have dreams of performing on Broadway, Ali shares, “first and foremost, never give up on your dream; don’t let other people’s beliefs about your limitations affect you. No one can tell you what you can and can’t do except for yourself. Be yourself. Owning who you are, what you do, and how you do it is part of succeeding.”
Looking back on her time at Camp Broadway, Ali remembers some the CB traditions that continue today, including the Camp Broadway Medley and the origins of the Gypsy Showcase. “I remember, ‘Everyone’s a star at Camp Broadway, Camp Broadway USA!'” When Ali attended Camp Broadway during the summer of 1999, campers attended a matinee of the Annie Get Your Gun revival, starring Bernadette Peters.
Some of Ali’s fondest memories from her time at Camp Broadway are of the friendships she made and the professionals she worked with. Ali recalls looking up to Nicole Deleone, the performing professional who led her group. “I remember how open the staff was about my situation. I was so young, and my mom spoke to them about me being in a chair, and they were so accepting and excited about having me join. The program really impacted me and has had a lasting effect on my life.”
Camp Broadway is proud to count Ali Stroker among our alumni who share their talents and inspire new generations of theater-lovers and performers. We wish her continued success, and can’t wait to see what she does next!