Broadway’s Ali Stroker reminisces about her childhood with the first picture book, Ali and the Sea Stars

Ali Stroker as Ado Annie in Oklahoma! (Photo: Teddy Wolff)

“Everyone has an origin story about how they got into theater and how it changed their life,” says Ali Stroker, a Tony-winning actress who encourages kids and adults alike to create their own opportunities with the release of a new movie, according to Book.

Inspired by her experiences with shows at her childhood home on the Jersey shore, Stroker’s children’s book, Ali and the Sea Stars, was released on May 17th.

“Why wait?” Stroker told Broadway News. “It’s not about getting something perfect. It’s about showing yourself and pursuing something that you might dream of or might have wanted for a long time.”

For the 34-year-old stage and film star, this means pursuing her dream of writing and developing something special for a young readership.

Stroker, who is currently in rehearsals for the Public Theater’s Shakespeare-in-the-Park production of Richard III (performances are scheduled to begin June 21 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park), told Broadway News that she always wanted to create a book for the little ones.

“In so many ways, I think my community down by the beach was the first people who gave me the green light and believed in me,” says Stroker of the childhood experiences that inspired her book.

Ali and the Sea Stars is about enthusiastic young student Ali who creates and presents a musical after realizing she can put on her own shows. With the help of family and friends, Ali pulls through the show – despite some bumps in the road that occur along the way.

“I realized that you can do theater without adults. You can do theater with your friends. I wanted to inspire children to use their creativity and imagination and not wait for adult permission.”

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This message helped Stroker to find her own way.

She graduated from New York University before placing second in the second season of the reality series The Glee Project. From then on, Stroker became the first actor in a wheelchair to appear in Deaf West’s 2015 revival of “Spring Awakening” on Broadway. Stroker then became the first actress in a wheelchair to win a Tony Award for her role as Ado Annie in the 2019 revival of Oklahoma.

Her previous book, the non-illustrated The Chance to Fly, co-written with Stacy Davidowitz for a teenage audience, was released in April 2021. Both of Stroker’s books feature a wheelchair-using protagonist.

And while writing “Ali and the Sea Stars” helped Stroker reconnect with her roots, she hopes it can do the same for others.

“Everyone has an origin story, how they got into theater and how it changed their life. And I hope [this book] makes them feel good about where they come from.”

Stroker also wants to help parents teach their children all about people, with the wish that Ali and the Sea Stars will encourage them to engage in meaningful conversations.

“Maybe they don’t have a friend in a wheelchair or they don’t know anyone in a wheelchair and this book can introduce them [through this] character,” says Stroker.

And the message remains relevant to people of all ages, too, adds Stroker. “I think it’s so important for adults to see that we can have main characters that are different from us and they don’t have to explain why they are different.”

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As Broadway and the theater industry as a whole continue to recover from the pandemic, this book’s key messages to celebrate all types of people and follow their dreams hold especially true.

Stroker says the process Ali goes through in the book is exactly the same process artists and theater workers go through when working on a Broadway show. In this regard, the message of the book appeals to people of all ages.

“Creating this book has reminded me of where I come from and why I started from the beginning. I think it’s so important that we remember our why and the joy it brought us as children and let that flow into our work now as adults.”

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