WOMEN CRUSH WEDNESDAY
I saw those that were younger and less experienced than me, pass me by leaps and bounds. I felt hopeless. My mom said to give it one more audition season. I flew back to New York. The first audition of the season was Mean Girls on January 3rd. 8 callbacks and one year later and I’m 100 shows into my dream show on Broadway.
Stephanie Bissonnette, Mean Girls on Broadway
Location: New York, NY
Job: Mean Girls on Broadway
Female Inspirations: Janet Jackson, Debbie Reynolds, Gwen Verdon, Jessica Lee Goldyn
Photo: Erin Baiano
On April 8th, 2018 Stephanie’s childhood dreams turned into a reality when she opened her first show on Broadway. Stephanie plays Dawn Schweitzer in the Ensemble in Mean Girls on Broadway. She has been dancing and working towards Broadway since she was five years old. I met Stephanie during my Hairspray contract at Royal Caribbean. She is by far one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met in my life. She’s someone who always says yes. Steph worked on a passion project with me on the ship while simultaneously performing in multiple shows on the cruise ship. Recently, she choreographed a music video for me while opening her first show on Broadway. That’s one of the many reasons Steph is so successful. She’s exceedingly motivated and driven and constantly working towards her next project. It was an honor interviewing Stephanie as one of my very first Woman Crush Wednesdays! Hear what it was like working with Tina Fey, making her Broadway dreams come true and how to score some affordable tickets to Mean Girls the musical below!
What inspired you to begin dancing?
Stephanie: I saw Singing in the Rain and became obsessed with it! I was also a huge "I love Lucy" fan and it made me want to get into show business.
Who were your role models growing up?
Stephanie: My mom. The most nurturing, loving human I know. She always told me I could accomplish anything and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
My other role model was Brettany LaDuke who was my dance teacher growing up. She saw potential and pushed me to be the best dancer I could be. She taught me technique but she also taught me artistry. She always stressed the most important thing in dance was telling the story and making someone feel something.
I've had the pleasure of working and living with you, so I know first hand that you are one of the hardest workers out there. Can you explain what it takes in terms of work ethic to get to Broadway? What was your weekly routine?
Stephanie: I kept a very busy, strict schedule. I went to every ECC and I worked hard to maintain a great reputation. I still take class regularly and I still go to the gym and cross train. My main side job was teaching dance classes, which is something I love, so it never felt like work. I also still teach today while doing the show 8 times a week. There is definitely stamina training involved and I work hard to maintain my technique as a dancer.
Was there ever an audition, or a moment you had where you thought about throwing in the towel? How did you talk yourself back into continuing to push yourself?
Stephanie: Yes. The winter before I booked Mean Girls I was feeling incredibly down. I had been close to many projects that were headed to Broadway but I just couldn’t seem to land the job. I went home for Christmas break and was so depressed. I told my mom that I didn’t think I could keep going. I saw those that were younger and less experienced than me, pass me by leaps and bounds. I felt hopeless. My mom said to give it one more audition season. I flew back to New York. The first audition of the season was Mean Girls on January 3rd. 8 callbacks and one year later and I’m 100 shows into my dream show on Broadway.
What are the difficulties of being a female in the entertainment industry, specifically theatre, and how have you dealt with these difficulties over the years?
Stephanie: I have struggled especially as a female dancer with body issues. I struggled with eating disorders in college. I always felt too big, too curvy, too muscular. I wasn’t the skinny tall blonde that I kept seeing book the job. Slowly over the years, I’ve learned to embrace my curves and I realized that they add so much style to my dancing. It’s a struggle to feel good enough physically, let alone talent wise. It’s definitely something everyone in the industry struggles with, especially women.
Tell us about when you found out about Mean Girls. Where were you, how did you react, who did you call first?
Stephanie: I was actually in the holding room for an audition at Pearl Studios for Papermill Theatre’s, "Mary Poppins". I almost missed my name being called. I sat down outside of the studio and I got a little teary. I had to run into the audition after the call, so I texted my parents quickly. Then I went in and did the audition because the dates of Mean Girls didn’t conflict with the dates of Mary Poppins. The hustle never stops.
How has it been working the legend, Tina Fey? You had a chance to work with such a strong female producer and writer. How did that affect you as an artist?
Stephanie: I have admired Tina and her work for years. I truly am one of her biggest fans and I’m still convinced I am Liz Lemon. She is such a strong, smart and witty woman. I look up to her so much. She handled this project with such grace and she is truly a force. I admired her work ethic. She never stopped changing, tweaking and perfecting the process. She was there every single day and invested 1,000 percent. I think that’s why everything she touches is so successful. She puts everything she has into the process. Always focused. Always a leader. Yet always ready with a one-liner.
What has been your favorite memory of the Mean Girls experience so far?
Stephanie: There have been so many it’s truly hard to pick one. I would say hearing our original score for the first time all together at the Sitzprobe in DC was incredible. Everyone was bawling and sobbing and just overcome with joy, including Casey Nicholaw, Tina Fey, Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin. It was the moment we realized it was all coming together. The beginning of the journey to Broadway. A moment I’ll never forget.
*Sitzprobe: First rehearsal with the orchestra
There's been a lot of talk about how Tina Fey was able to connect her stage version of Mean Girls to the modern world of social media. What is your advice to young girls dealing with mean girls and bullying via social media?
Stephanie: Social media is tough. I’m grateful I didn’t have to deal with it growing up. Even as an adult it can make you feel left out, unwanted, not good enough. Kids out there need to remember that Instagram is everyone’s highlight reel. And no matter who likes your photograph your real friends are the ones that show up for you every day.
For those wanting to see Mean Girls at less expensive rates, what's the best way to get tickets?
Stephanie: Lottery! I was the lotto queen whenever I wanted to see shows! Also, there are rush tickets on Wednesday but don’t forget to wear your pink!