Skip to main content

Heaven Or Hell 3’ Explores San Diego In 1971

Show will be performed at Les Girls

Photo by Beth Accomando

Les Girls owner Kata Pierce-Morgan and singer-activist Kate McGrew on the set of their new play "Heaven or Hell 3: 1971 San Diego."

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

This weekend you can find San Diego International Fringe performers squaring off with new versions of their shows. Tom Steward has shaken not stirred his “One Man Bond” into “James Bond in Space” while Kata Pierce-Morgan and Kate McGrew will be offering the third installment of “Heaven or Hell” at Les Girls, Part 2 debuted this past summer at Fringe.

Aired: November 8, 2019 | Transcript

This weekend you can find San Diego International Fringe performers squaring off with new versions of their shows. Tom Steward has shaken not stirred his “One Man Bond” into “James Bond in Space” while Kata Pierce-Morgan and Kate McGrew will be offering the third installment of “Heaven or Hell” at Les Girls, Part 2 debuted this past summer at Fringe.

SD Fringe Preview: 'One Man Bond'

Bond. James Bond.

Steward delivered a delectable one-man Fringe show two years ago in which he condensed the entire Bond franchise into an hour. Now he retools the show to create two new events. On Saturday at 2 p.m. at OnStage Playhouse he will perform “James Bond in Space” in which he will dissect the Roger Moore 007 film “Moonraker.” Then he will continue to channel Moore’s Bond on Sunday at 7 p.m. when Film Geeks SD (for which I am a volunteer programmer) screen the new 4K DCP of “Moonraker” with a running commentary by Steward at Digital Gym Cinema.

To round out the Sci-Fi weekend at OnStage Playhouse, he will also do a staged reading of “War of the Worlds” on Saturday at 8 p.m.

Photo credit: Manuel Rotenberg

A scene from "Heaven or Hell 3: 1971 San Diego" that is being performed at Les Girls.

‘Heaven or Hell’

Also this Saturday and Sunday, fellow former Fringers Pierce-Morgan and McGrew will be performing the third chapter of “Heaven or Hell” at Les Girls. Pierce-Morgan owns and runs Les Girls, a strip club that also serves as a venue for her plays. The “Heaven or Hell” series is something Pierce-Morgan has been working on for years. The version that ran during this past summer’s San Diego International Fringe Festival was about dealing with the stages of grief.

“My husband had just died and so we put this show [‘Heaven or Hell 3’] on the backburner,” Pierce-Morgan explained. “Now we're back on track with our political stance. We are exposing the darker underbelly of San Diego in 1971 and it's relevant because so much of the corruption, the abuse of power, the prejudice towards diversity, the silent bystanders with the good-ole-boys code of silence, that is relevant for today. So this show pretty much like ‘Our Town’ by Thornton Wilder, and it’s immersed with story poems, which you'll get to discover the inner workings of the pimp, the streetwalker, the stripper, the medieval ghost nun who represents the homeless or anyone who's been disenfranchised, and the sailor who is really an icon on the streets of San Diego in 1971.”

McGrew (AKA Lady Grew), who has performed at Les Girls for her Fringe shows “Sweet Pang,” “Hookers Do It Standing Up,” and “An Even Sweeter Pang,” will appear in “Heaven or Hell 3” and is creating a rap about rape.

“I'll be describing a story of an incident that happened in 1971 in San Diego,” McGrew said. “It's about police abuse and the power dynamic between people in the sex industry and the police. And it's a story that could be told today in Ireland or anywhere in the world sadly. I am writing it based on the story and details of what happened in this one incident. But as director of the Sex Workers Alliance in Ireland and an escort myself I'm very familiar with the inevitable tensions between police and people such as ourselves.”

The work that Pierce-Morgan and McGrew do informs their art.

“I know that life in the sex industry and people what they're doing is paying their bills and people are finding a means for survival,” McGrew explained. “And so the common ground around this police abuse is people will try and abolish the sex industry thinking that it's all exploitation or that our clients are exploiting us. Well, actually it's work for many people who have little to no other option or who find it as the most suitable work for them for a number of reasons. It actually is the police and the criminal aspect that comes from illegality and comes from people in the sex industry not having labor rights. That is where our exploitation largely occurs and so that's the kind of message that we feel like it's really important that people hear, that this is the reality and this is how it gets passed out and people need to listen to people who have real experience in the sex industry to understand this.”

As the owner of Les Girls, Pierce-Morgan is trying to get audiences used to the idea that there are two kinds of shows going on there.

“It's becoming more and more accepted,” Pierce-Morgan said. “What's really interesting is that the energy and the spirit of the place is morphing. When I first started the after show, the girls’ show was so big. It's like a big elephant in the building. And now it's like a little mouse and what we're doing has expanded and grown and you can feel the changes that are taking place in the girls' theater.”

“Heaven or Hell 3: 1971 San Diego” will be performed Nov. 9 and 10 at 7 p.m. at Les Girls on Riley Street. When I tell people about the show I still get frequent snickers and jokes about bringing one-dollar bills or inquiries about what the clientele for the show is like. But with each show, Pierce-Morgan is proving how serious she is about her art and about delivering art that is fully infused with a sense of social outrage and activism.

Here is footage of McGrew rehearsing her rap number.

'Heaven or Hell 3' Rap

Reported by Beth Accomando

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.