Stephanie Bissonnette, who starred in the Broadway musical Mean Girls, has died. She was 32. Bissonnette played high school student Dawn Schweitzer when the production opened on Broadway in 2018.
"Our hearts are broken as the Mean Girls community mourns the loss of Stephanie Bissonnette," the show's producers announced on Twitter Monday. "Our original Dawn Sweitzer, Stephanie was part of our Broadway company from our first performance to our last. She filled our theater with her laughter and friendship, inspired us with her fighting spirit and bravery, and graced our stage with the fiercest talent Broadway has ever known."
Our hearts are broken as the Mean Girls community mourns the loss of Stephanie Bissonnette.— MEAN GIRLS on Broadway (@MeanGirlsBway) December 18, 2022
Our original Dawn Sweitzer, Stephanie was part of our Broadway company from our first performance to our last. pic.twitter.com/JKCATGVhMi
The producers also offered their condolences to Bissonnette's friends and family. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Stephanie's family, friends, and the entire Mean Girls community during this time," the statement continued. "We will miss her profoundly and encourage everyone to do something they love today in Stephanie's honor."
Bissonnette was a dancer, choreographer, and teacher. She was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer, in 2019, according to her Playbill obituary. Mean Girls: The Musical was her first Broadway production and remained with the show until it closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was also featured in Ensemble, a documentary about how Broadway performers made it through the year-long shutdown that began in March 2020.
Bissonnette openly discussed her experience with medulloblastoma, which can occur at any age, but is usually found among young children. The dancer said she felt a "twinge" during a Mean Girls dance move and was inspired to see a doctor, she told SurvivorNet in February 2020. She had surgery four days after she saw her doctor. She credited her physically demanding job as a dancer with helping her discover the tumor.
"I don't think we would have found [the tumor] if I worked a normal 9 to 5 job," Bissonnette explained. "Because I move so much and I do crazy things for a living – I've been doing it since I was 5 – just [that] little moment in the show [made me go], 'Why am I having trouble today? There's got to be something else going on.'"
Bissonnette missed nine months of Mean Girls shows due to her radiation treatments. She thought she would never dance again, but she returned to the production in October 2019. "I've very grateful for all of them," Bissonnette said of her castmates. "They've been very supportive and aware [that February is a big month]. Last year, my whole life was falling apart. So, I'm a little more quiet and internal this month at work. ... They know it's hard. They check in and make sure that I'm OK, but they also give me space to feel through it."
Mean Girls: The Musical is based on the 2004 movie and the 2002 book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. The show features music by Jeff Richmond, lyrics by Nell Benjamin, and book by Tina Fey. Mean Girls earned 12 Tony nominations in 2018.