Granola Funk Theater

Granola Funk grew from the inspiration of Aaron Funk. It began at the Ocala regional in Florida and their first annual gathering was in Wyoming in 1994. At the annual gatherings they look for a place at the lower end of a small meadow that slopes upward to form a natural amphitheater. Then they build a structure that includes a stage, a backdrop, and a place behind for performers to prepare.

Their performance run usually lasts for four days, and has the same schedule. On the first of July they have a Rainbow version of the Dating Game TV show. On the 2nd they present the “Singer/Songwriter Showcase”, where any gathering participant can sign up before the show to get a time slot to perform.

On the 3rd is the “Gong Show”, where anybody can perform doing anything, and in addition to the usual singing and guitar playing there might be people playing other instruments, stand up comedians, people reciting their own poetry or telling stories, acrobatic acts, even dog tricks. On the stage, or more usually on a perch above it, is a person with a large Chinese gong, and when that person beats it, the performer on stage has to leave.

They can be merciless, seldom letting anyone go for more than three minutes. Sometimes the audience groans and boos their disapproval to the gonger, and the act is allowed to proceed a little longer, but more often the crowd heckles the performer. Ribbing, along with occasional calls of “show us your butt” are common. Rainbow Presidential Candidate Vermin Supreme has hosted the Gong Show many times, but in recent years has MCed under protest – there are folks who don’t like the ferocity of the heckling and feel it adds an inappropriately negative tinge to the space. One year the MC was so offended at the crowd’s heckling that he quit mid-show. Usually, however, there is a balance between good-natured catcalls and genuine appreciation for talent.”

On the 4th is the “Variety Show” or “Talent Showcase”, and the performers are allowed to finish their acts unimpeded. On the 5th the stage and everything they have built around it is dismantled and disappeared.

The shows always start at “dark thirty” which usually means when all of the last of the blue had disappeared from the western sky. The audience always sits on the ground. There is never any electronic amplification, and there is an advantage to showing up while there is still light to get a sitting place near enough to the stage to hear clearly.

Their stage structures are known for their elaborateness. At the 2012 annual gathering in Tennessee, they built an Egyptian pyramid framed with logs covered with white cloth. In Pennsylvania in 2010 they built a structure that looked like a cross between the Frontierland fort and the Fantasyland castle at Disneyland – a wooden stockade with a pair of round turrets with conical roofs in the middle, and a wide door overlooking a small stage that resembled a drawbridge. In Wyoming in 2008 it looked like a giant white bird with a long neck extending out over the stage, and in 2006 in Colorado they built a pirate ship with masts and rigging.

September 14th, 2016 by John Anderson