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Fringe Artist Spotlight: Kata Pierce-Morgan

Kata 2.jpg
Beth Accomando
Kata Pierce-Morgan stages her new dance show "Bones Abide" at her Les Girls venue for the San Diego International Fringe Festival.

The San Diego International Fringe Festival begins Thursday. One of the returning artists is Kata Pierce-Morgan, who has created a new show, "Bones Abide," for this year. As Pierce-Morgan is also the owner of the Les Girls adult entertainment club, she is bringing her own venue to Fringe.

Pierce-Morgan is many things: a businesswoman, a dancer, a writer, an activist and a COVID-19 survivor.

She always felt compelled to speak out against social injustice, but in recent years her method of speaking out changed.

"I realized that, rather than being in front of the mayor and the police review board and that kind of thing, I prefer to do it through art," Pierce-Morgan said. "And so I started creating these shows, which I think reached a broader spectrum of people. And, as they learned more about what Les Girls was — that we were a place of social activism. And so Les Girls is a perfect place for speaking out, and our saying is: 'Not a silent bystander.' And so I've done a number of shows. Now I think this is the ninth one on topics of social injustice."

Initially, her attempts to present her work at Les Girls met with some snickers.

"We've gained a lot of credibility now," Pierce-Morgan said. "But I remember, when we first started, we were a subject of tittering. People kind of making fun of me, making fun of the type of shows that I did, avant-garde shows."

Fringe - Bones Abide
Manuel Rotenberg / Golden Corpse LLC
In "Bones Abide," Patti Coburn plays Najelle, a character inspired by her grandmother's experiences surviving the Armenian genocide.

This year Pierce-Morgan will debut "Bones Abide" at Fringe.

"It's about the Armenian genocide, which took place at the the beginning of the 20th century," she said. "It's about the survival of Najelle, who's based on my lead actress's grandmother. It's a true story about how she survived. She was a child survivor of the genocide. In our show, we use some creative license, so she becomes mistress of a cabaret, and she has developed multiple personalities. Najelle is the only real person on the stage, and, all the other dancers, they're her 'alters.' And the core of the show really is in keeping with what we do with Golden Corpse (Pierce-Morgan's production company), which is dealing with the cruelties of social injustice, like prejudice towards diversity and abuse of power."

Pierce-Morgan wrote the play before the pandemic and managed to get one in-person rehearsal done before everything shut down.

"Then COVID came and just knocked us into the hard sidewalk of reality," Pierce-Morgan said. "We had to stop, and we did all our rehearsing on Zoom. We did not expect that I would come down with severe COVID, and so it was difficult for me, but it was especially difficult for the cast to be dealing with a show about genocide and a true story while the pandemic was going on. And so they were so entwined together. There was those elements of fear and uncertainty and many deaths that took place with both."

"Bones Abide" will have its first Fringe performance on Sunday and then additional performances on June 10, 11 and 12. Tickets are available online.