Fan Girl: A Profile
Updated: Dec 14, 2018
When I met Rori Nogee she was deciding whether or not to star in a musical about her life. A few days later, she had planned to audition actors who are “prettier and younger” than her to play her. Ms. Nogee is usually the comedic sidekick or vixen, always too “ethnic or short", she has been told, to be the lead. She is among the many aspiring actors in New York City who, in the face of high competition, limited roles, and an industry that puts pressure on women to look a certain way, has turned to writing their own material. Though after finishing writing what would come to be called Siren’s Den, Ms. Nogee realised that she had never played a role as vulnerable as her life.
The first time she ever performed in anything professional was in 1993, when she was ten and on Broadway. Within a year of joining a musical-theatre program, the young Rori was picked to perform in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Sure, she had to share the limelight with a chorus of “Broadway babies”, but she knew she had made it; not many kids her age could stay up until midnight during the week or miss school on Wednesdays to perform at a matinee. Most nights, the “babies” would leave the theatre, waddle past the dozens of fans who waited for the stars, hop into the coach bus and be taken home. But one night, as she was stepping out of the Minskoff Theater in her fur coat and bright blue spandex leggings, she heard a man’s voice calling her over. “You guys were great!” he told her. She had never signed a playbill before, she replied. He handed it over and gave her his pen. Rori had found her first fan.
Twenty years later, in 2013, Ms. Nogee had a new set of fans. In the mornings, she starred in Pinkalicious as a young girl who turns pink after eating too many pink cupcakes. At night, she was the pole-shimmying, topless-dancing Cristal Connors in Showgirls The Musical, the unofficial but widely popular adaptation of the infamously awful film. The fans were different, but the after-show routines were basically the same: in the first, she signed autographs for young girls dressed like her; in the latter, she signed autographs for gay men dressed like her. In the two-decades since her first autograph, Ms. Nogee always wanted to be an actor—but for most of those years she was a fan.
By the time she was thirteen, even after five months and over 200 performances on Broadway, Ms. Nogee was being cast less and less as the lead in her middle-school plays. It was at this age that Rori first saw Rent on Broadway. She watched it again two years later, then again as the after party of her senior prom. By the time she got to college, she was watching Rent once a week.
Obsessed fans of Rent are usually called “RENT-heads,” but Ms. Nogee calls herself a “groupie.” Being a groupie was a full time job. It meant waiting for hours in front of the Nederlander Theater on 41st Street to score $20 discounted tickets. It meant supporting all the actors in and out of Rent. For Ms. Nogee, it also meant saving money by not travelling or going to bars, unless that bar was The Cutting Room, the unofficial, midtown headquarters of Rent cast and their groupies.
If ever you wanted to know what a chandelier made of guitars looks like, go to The Cutting Room. Ms. Nogee, then 20, remembers waiting in the lobby before a concert starring some of the Rent actors and listening to them rehearse. Out of nowhere, a wailing rock voice punches through the locked doors and hits her. Ms. Nogee recognised the woman’s voice; she was a new addition to the Rent cast, a 27-year-old lead she saw in a recent playbill and could not stop thinking about. She met her later that night, they eventually fell in love, and six years later the star vowed to never see her again. Ms. Nogee refuses to tell me her name, but she calls her “Skylar” in the musical she wrote.
At one point, the musical was called Fan Girl. Did she see herself as “Skylar’s” fan? It started that way, she tells me, but “when you’ve been to someone’s house, where’s the line?” Ms. Nogee and “Skylar” were never intimate in a physical sense, but their friendship soon evolved into something “flirty and weird.” They would spend days and nights together, telling each other secrets. Ms. Nogee assured me that “Skylar” loved her back, but “Skylar” had a boyfriend. And when that boyfriend cheated on her, she found another one five months later. In 2006, three years after the star and her fan met, “Skylar” was married, Ms. Nogee still loved her, and they stopped seeing each other.
“I have an arch enemy,” Ms. Nogee confesses to me over a butter croissant and Starbucks Citrus Green Tea Latte. Her enemy, another groupie who she met at a Daphne Rubin-Vega concert, when she was 18, and introduced to “Skylar” two years later, had always been jealous of Ms. Nogee’s relationship with the star. She is named “Jessie” in the musical and Ms. Nogee makes a point of letting me know that the character is more likeable than the person. After the "Skylar's" marriage, with Ms. Nogee out of the picture, “Jessie” became the star's possessive personal assistant. Ms. Nogee impersonates her screeching voice:
“I’m gunna be seeing her everyday and I’m not gunna be your spy!”
A couple of years later, Ms. Nogee found out that her enemy had been feeding “Skylar” misleading information about her. According to “Jessie,” Ms. Nogee became obsessed with “Skylar” to the point of stalking her. After Ms. Nogee emailed “Skylar,” unaware of what “Jessie” had been telling her, to declare her love, she replied with a vicious email. She signed off by telling Nogee to never contact her again.
“Why did it have to end if it never began?” Ms. Nogee asks me. She spent the next three years of her life trying to understand the six years before it. Finally, inspired by corny notions of therapeutic art, she began to write Fan Girl.
She later renamed her musical Siren’s Den, inspired by the ancient Greek creatures who lure sailors to their deaths. “Here, the turbulent sea is the music industry, and the siren is Skylar Cole,” the synopsis reads on her Indiegogo profile. Nowhere on the website does it say that the “den” itself is based on The Cutting Room. Nor is there even a hint that “Remy Morgan,” the story’s main character, was ever Rori Nogee.
The next time I spoke to Nogee, she had auditioned 60 actors for roles in the “staged, choreographed, lit and costumed workshop production” of Siren’s Den, to which she would invite friends, family, and, hopefully, a few agents. None of the actors, she told me, reminded her of the actual “Skylar,” but some suited the fictional character she had created. Once all the girls auditioning for “Remy” left, Ms. Nogee read for the role herself with a “tattooed rocker chick” who was called back as “Skylar.” Halfway through the reading, the director, Marishka Phillips, had to stop it. Nogee had forgotten that “Remy” is a character: “I jumped into it with where I'm at now emotionally, instead of where the character was at that point in time.” And she cried and cried.
Nogee is currently seeing a guy who breaks her heart “at least once a day.” “He's a bipolar alcoholic with control issues and a history of arrests after sleeping with a minor,” she tells me plainly. Oh, and he has a girlfriend. They have been seeing each other for three years. Should all go well with Siren’s Den, she shouldn’t have too much of a problem with a sequel.
Siren’s Den was performed at The Gene Frankel Theater during May-June 2017 Equity showcase. For more information, visit: www.sirensdenthemusical.com.