Ali Stroker just became the first person who uses a wheelchair to win a Tony, and congratulations are in order
As Broadway’s biggest night, the Tony Awards always deliver showstopping musical numbers, emotional speeches, and unforgettable victories. And the 2019 Tony Awards, which took place on June 9th, were no exception. The awards show saw a historic moment when Ali Stroker became the first actor who uses a wheelchair to win theater’s most prestigious award.
ET Online reports that Stroker took home the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Ado Annie in a revival of Oklahoma! According to the outlet, she was the first performer in a wheelchair to be nominated for a Tony. Stroker previously performed in a 2015 revival of Spring Awakening, and she has also appeared on Glee. Earlier in the evening, HuffPost notes that she wowed the audience with her rendition of “I Cain’t Say No.”
Stroker began her acceptance speech by addressing children with disabilities.
"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," she said. "You are!"
She went on to thank her representation, her Oklahoma! castmates, her family, and her friends.
"Thank you for teaching me to use my gifts to help people," she concluded. "I love you. We did it!"
Theater fans rejoiced at Stroker’s win on Twitter.
But Stroker’s Tony win also highlighted the need for theaters to be more accessible.
As The New York Times notes, there was no ramp that the actress could take to get up to the stage. Instead, she waited in the wings to accept her award. After the ceremony, she told reporters that backstage is often less accessible than the audience seating area in Broadway theaters.
"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," she said, according to The Times.
The Oklahoma! ensemble was also honored with Best Revival of a Musical.
Stroker’s historic Tony nomination and win is a promising sign for representation in theater. But, as last night showed, the fight for accessibility is far from over. Here’s hoping that the next wheelchair-using Tony winner won’t have to wait backstage to get their award.