Stephanie Bissonnette, a dancer and choreographer known for her role in the original Broadway production of the musical “Mean Girls,” died Sunday. Bissonnette was diagnosed in 2019 with medulloblastoma, a rare brain cancer, according to her obituary in Playbill. She was 32.
“Our hearts are broken as the Mean Girls community mourns the loss of Stephanie Bissonnette,” read a message from the Twitter account of the Broadway musical on Sunday. “Our original Dawn Sweitzer [sic], 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,” read another tweet from the musical’s account.
Bissonnette played Dawn Schweitzer, a character portrayed by Erin Thompson in the iconic 2004 movie. She performed that role from the production’s first night in 2018 until its last in 2020. She also appeared in the music video for Keith Urban’s 2018 song “Never Comin Down,” according to E! News.
After graduating from Point Park University’s Conservatory of the Performing Arts, Bissonnette worked with Royal Caribbean Entertainment and moved to New York. She choreographed shows for the Muny, Seven and Riverside theaters and the Shakespeare Theatre Company.
Playbill’s obituary for Bissonnette notes that she “first recognized what she described as a ‘twinge’ in her brain” during an “aerial tumbling pass” she performed for the “Mean Girls” musical in 2019. She had emergency surgery four days later — and seemingly recovered.
“I don’t think we would have found [the tumor] if I worked a normal 9-to-5 job,” Bissonnette told SurvivorNet in February 2020.
“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 told the website.
Medulloblastoma most commonly affects children and adults between ages 20 and 40, according to the Center for Cancer Research. It has a five-year survival rate of 72%, with treatments limited to surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and opting into clinical trials.
Bissonnette continued acting after surgery and radiation treatments. She participated in “Ensemble,” a documentary about Broadway dancers navigating the 2020 pandemic shutdowns. She also taught musical theater dance at New York’s Broadway Dance Center.
In her spare time, she participated in charity projects like “When The Lights Are Bright Again” — a book about the COVID-19 shutdowns whose profits went to the Entertainment Community Fund. In her teacher biography for the Broadway Dance Center, she called the institution her “second home.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Stephanie’s family, friends, and the entire Mean Girls community during this time,” a tweet from the “Mean Girls” account read Sunday. “We will miss her profoundly and encourage everyone to do something they love today in Stephanie’s honor.”