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Theatre Dojo claims more honors

Photo by Sue Brenner Photography

Deming Headlight

Photo by Sue Brenner

SAN DIEGO - Theatre Dojo, featuring two artists based in southern New Mexico, continued to build its reputation on the American theater festival circuit last week at the fourth annual San Diego International Fringe Festival.

Performers Randy Granger, of Las Cruces, and Algernon D'Ammassa, of Deming, were honored at the closing ceremony with the Outstanding Storytelling Award, selected by the staff and board of the festival for Theatre Dojo's original work of music and theatre, "Killing Buddha," written by D'Ammassa, with songs and a musical score by Granger.

San Diego film and theater critic Beth Accomando, reporting for KPBS, described the play as "riveting and wonderful: The pyrotechnics are all in the actor's ability to hold you rapt with nothing more than words ... [and] amazing music made with an array of musical instruments, some of which are just found objects."

Last summer, Theatre Dojo was awarded a top prize at the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival in Salt Lake City, taking home the "Fringe Pick" honor for "Killing Buddha." They will return to Utah in July with a new show while continuing to tour the country with "Killing Buddha."

Fringe festivals are festivals for the performing arts, visual arts and mixed media. The oldest and most famous of these festivals is the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival in Scotland, held annually since 1947. The United States hosts more fringe festivals than any country in the world. In its fourth year, San Diego International Fringe featured 89 productions over two weeks by dance, cirque, and theater companies from around the world.

"San Diego is a large international festival, so we weren't expecting much recognition here," said D'Ammassa, Theatre Dojo's founder and director. "We hoping to find a local audience, maybe a producer to bring us back. We were pleased with the strong response to our show, especially by other artists. And we put a different face on New Mexico for a lot of people. Even in California, people think of New Mexico as Santa Fe and the TV drama 'Breaking Bad.'"

Granger, resting before moving on to performances in Albuquerque, pronounced himself "very honored" by the growing acclaim for their play, but added, "It's the community and being inspired by others' work that is the best take-away."

"Killing Buddha" is a modern retelling of an Asian fable about a serial killer who seeks repentance. As with their popular performances of "An Iliad," the story is rendered through improvised musical scoring and dynamic storytelling with no set and minimal props. The duo will perform next at The Cell Theatre in downtown Albuquerque, and there will be a special Sept. 11 performance of "Killing Buddha" at the Hillsboro Community Center.

"The play examines terrorism and criminality," D'Ammassa says. "It invites us to examine how we respond to these issues, and to consider what is necessary for healing and peace. There is nothing I'd rather be doing to commemorate Sept. 11."

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