The production shared news of the dance teacher, choreographer and performer’s death on Twitter Monday morning, writing in a statement that Bissonnette “filled our theater with her laughter and friendship.”
“Our hearts are broken as the Mean Girls community mourns the loss of Stephanie Bissonnette,” the production wrote in a statement. “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,” the statement continued. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Stephanie’s family, friends, and the entire Mean Girls community during this time. We will miss her profoundly and encourage everyone to do something they love today in Stephanie’s honor.”
Bissonnette had publicly shared her experience with a form of brain cancer called medulloblastoma ever since she was diagnosed in 2019, after she originated the role of Dawn Sweitzer as Mean Girls opened at the August Wilson Theatre in New York City in 2018, according to Playbill.
In 2020, Bissonnette told SurvivorNet that she first noticed something was off when she felt a “twinge” while performing a dance move during a Mean Girls performance in 2019.
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“I don’t think we would have found [the tumor] if I worked a normal 9 to 5 job,” she told the outlet of why she decided to see a doctor. “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.’ “
After doctors removed the performer’s tumor in February 2019, treatment for the disease kept Bissonnette away from appearing in Mean Girls for nine months, according to the outlet.
“Treatments are hard and you’re going to have bad days,” she told SurvivorNet about receiving cancer treatment in 2020. “You’re going to feel sick and you’re going to feel nauseous.”
“But you have to know that there is a light at the end and it is coming,” she added at the time. “It’s going to be over. It’s just a period of time. It’s a terrible, tough period of time, but people come out on the other side.”
Bissonnette was a graduate of Point Park University’s Conservatory of the Performing Arts; she performed with the cruise ship company Royal Caribbean after her graduation and eventually moved to New York City to work as a teacher and choreographer, according to Deadline.
Her other credits included choreography work for The Muny, Riverside Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, and Seven Angels Theatre, as well as an appearance in a Keith Urban music video for “Never Comin’ Down,” according to Deadline.
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