by Zurin Villanueva
Leaving a show is like moving to a different state or breaking up with someone. I had no idea we had become this close.
I looked up the last week with Mean Girls and realized how much of a family we had become. After all, we had been doing this show for exactly a year. We had all gotten sick together, messed up changes together, nailed changes and gotten sad (though mostly happy) over cuts together. We called Director/Choreographer Casey Nicholaw our Dad and Associate Director Casey Hushion our Mom. We cried together, lost weight and had meltdowns. It was everything we needed to do to get ready. We played with dozens of Tina Fey's scenes and still recall some of the funniest lines that didn’t make the final script. It was priceless.
But then, I was offered another incredible opportunity. Playing Dionne in Clueless the musical was a huge chance for me. Yet I still couldn't believe that doing Clueless meant I had to leave the family at Mean Girls. Like, what I was even doing? It was surreal until that last day.
It's one of the greatest gifts in this business to build that bond that you can only create with your cast mates in a long-running show.
The inside jokes, the spats, costume mishaps, the mistakes make it memorable. And if you're lucky, you have dozens of family members all over the business that you will always have those memories with. You grow up a little every time you do a new show. They help make you the artist you always wanted to be and the artist you never thought you could be.
When we finished bows on my last show at Mean Girls, my cast mates pulled me to the center of the stage. True to our tradition, they all began to joyously shout my name. But then, much to my surprise, they started giving me the biggest group hug I've ever been a part of. Ever had 35 people group hug you? Get into it. It. Was. Awesome.
If it wasn't for Mean Girls, I wouldn't have found out what it is to be a dancer on Broadway. It’s a job although often not honored as much as it should be; there's a pride in it that no one can take from you. I've always been a hard worker and Mean Girls tested me. For that, I will always be grateful.