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WHERE THE ARTS COME ALIVE!

Q+A with Broadway’s Mean Girls Cast Member and Wisconsin Native Sydney Mei Ruf-Wong

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Written by Philomena Dorobek, Brand Storyteller
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center


Meet Sydney Mei Ruf-Wong, Wisconsin Native through and through. As a cast member of Broadway’s production of Mean Girls since September 2019, Sydney has learned a thing a two about flexibility and adaptability, beyond the scope of a pandemic. Being a part of the Ensemble and an understudy for Mrs. Heron/Ms. Norbury/Mrs. George, Sydney embraces the nature of her ever-changing role in more ways than one. Read on to hear her thoughts about the great Dairy State, Mean Girls and more!
 
Broadway’s production of Mean Girls will make their way to the Fox Cities and onto the Thrivent Hall stage in the Fox Cities P.A.C. this week. Catch the exciting performances from Wednesday, August 24 to Sunday, August 28. Fetch you there!
 
Can you tell us about your Wisconsin roots?
My roots go back a few generations! My Great Great Grandpa and Grandma Ruf on my mother’s paternal side immigrated to Darlington, Wisconsin, from Interlaken, Switzerland, at the turn of the 20th century. My Grandpa Ruf, Grandma Ruf, aunt, and my mother (all raised in SW Wisconsin) attended UW-Madison. From age six, I grew up in Platteville, WI, where I attended grade, middle and high schools between spending summers in Eugene, Oregon, with my father. I took part in productions at CMT in Madison, had many hilarious experiences with the Pop Factory Players in Darlington, and was very involved with music, theatre and ballet in Platteville and nearby Dubuque, IA. UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts became my home for the four years of my BFA in Music Theatre education. The “M” Mound is still one of my favorite and most nostalgic places in the world. 
 
Since you travel a good deal, are there things you miss about Wisconsin?
Definitely! I miss the starry nights in the countryside. I miss the lush, comforting nature and summers on the lake. I miss how simple life is when you need it to be. And of course, I miss my beautiful, growing family.
 
As part of Broadway’s production of Mean Girls ensemble cast and understudy to a few leading roles, what has your experience as part of the show been like?
I love being in this company. These people make tour a beautiful experience—we are like a family. This is my first foray into performing a long-running show, but Mean Girls is exciting, fast-paced, and light-hearted, so every show is energizing. Being on tour post-pandemic is a bit like riding a roller coaster for the first time. There are many unexpected twists and turns that provide a rush of adrenaline. Work is never monotonous, for which I am grateful—even more so because as an understudy, I could go on for a different role at any moment, which is always thrilling! I love portraying the Adult Woman roles because I learn something new about myself as an actor every time I get the chance to play! 
 
When you’re not rehearsing, what are some things you do for fun?
I love to explore the cities and get a sense of the culture…that’s the main perk of traveling for me. And the shopping! I try to spend time in whatever nature is available, find a rock-climbing gym, relax at a local coffee shop or enjoy a group activity with the company. For example, in Chicago, a group of us took trapeze lessons! In New Orleans, we went on a Bayou tour through alligator-infested swamps. Near Greenville, SC, we drove our way through a slew of high-end race cars at the BMW Performance Experience. Occasionally, you can catch us dancing our behinds off at a late-night club. This is tour magic. However, sometimes it’s necessary to just try to live normal life in whatever city we’re in—do our taxes, film self-tape auditions, sleep!—in order to stay sane and recharge. 
 
In some cities, we have outreach opportunities organized by Change Is Fetch, a company and cast-led social advocacy initiative for which I’m an active contributing member.
 
The musical production of Mean Girls follows the book and the hit film of the same name released in 2004. How does it feel to be a part of something iconic that resulted in such a huge following?
Sometimes I chuckle to myself when I think about 14-year-old me watching Mean Girls (the film) at least once a month, reciting all the lines from memory in sync with the characters, thinking this was the funniest movie of all time. It was special to me because it was about me—it was about ALL of us young, weird people who are trying to figure out how to be ourselves. I would never have dreamed I would be portraying a part of this story so many years later, especially on such a grand scale.
Sure, three years after opening, this is my job as glorious and stressful as most, but in 2019, auditioning in front of greats like Tina Fey herself, Casey Nicholaw, and Mary-Mitchell Campbell was an out-of-body experience. It has changed my life. I feel so fortunate.
I am especially grateful the story is reaching many young people these days in this new form. To think, we are influencing kiddos, giving them role models from whom to learn and believe in and an invitation of acceptance is extremely rewarding. 
 
Final thoughts to share with audience members:
If anything, Mean Girls is a fun night out! I hope you are all able to attend, enjoy, and share the pursuit of a fulfilling life with those around you! Please follow and share @changeisfetch! Last but not least—please laugh at my jokes and funny faces!
 
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