FGCU students race through 24-hour contest to create art — and win $500

Ben Kirchman performs a piece titled, The Lonely Man, at the Fifth Annual 24 Hour Festival at Florida Gulf Coast University on Saturday September 10, 2011 in Fort Myers, Fla. Kirchman won in the category, Moving Image, a created film coupled with a stage performance concurrently. Performances, film, and artwork produced by FGCU students, faculty, all created within a 24-hour period following a set of prompts and narrative. Michele AnneLouise Cohen | Naples Daily News

Photo by MICHELE ANNELOUISE COHEN // Buy this photo

Ben Kirchman performs a piece titled, The Lonely Man, at the Fifth Annual 24 Hour Festival at Florida Gulf Coast University on Saturday September 10, 2011 in Fort Myers, Fla. Kirchman won in the category, Moving Image, a created film coupled with a stage performance concurrently. Performances, film, and artwork produced by FGCU students, faculty, all created within a 24-hour period following a set of prompts and narrative. Michele AnneLouise Cohen | Naples Daily News

College students typically won’t give up sleep without good reason. But the lure of three $500 prizes was enough to keep some of them awake all night last Friday, working to win Florida Gulf Coast University’s fifth annual 24-Hour Festival.

The challenge was to complete a film, song, theater piece or work of art within 24 hours, using a crazy-quilt of pre­scribed materials, sounds and phrases. The list included pudding, an apple, an ice cream truck, the sound of someone moving behind a door — and the sentence “Without noticing, we watched the sun come up for the very first time.”

Theater professor Barry Cavin started the official clock at 6:11 p.m. Friday and returned to the FGCU TheatreLab 24 hours later to begin accepting the students’ solo and team entries, which were displayed and screened before a live audience Saturday evening.

“What I love about this challenge is seeing that kind of intensity focused on the arts,” Cavin said. “These students have a passion, and this directs that passion and reminds them why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s surprising,” he added, “the quality of work that comes out of that crucible of 24 hours.” Finished works ranged from silly to somber in mood, with materials including everything from canvas to corrugated cardboard, black satin to hand-gathered twigs. One student built a steady-cam device from PVC piping to hold still a video camera used for shoot­ing overnight footage on the beach at Fort Lauderdale that night. Another competitor wrote and played original piano music for his group’s film soundtrack.

Chris “Mr. Revrac” Carver, a senior art ma­jor from Cape Coral, captured the $500 prize in the visual art category with “Pudding and Bees,” his assemblage of doors and drawers made from scrap wood, inviting the viewer to discover tiny treasures inside. The haunt­ing tune of a crippled calliope lured gallery visitors closer; it came from inside a cabinet where Carver had hidden an MP3 player.

“Time was the biggest challenge for me,” Carver said before the judging. “I got about two hours’ sleep.”

Childhood friends Brittney Brady and Katelyn Gravel built a shadow box and hand puppets to provide a moving background for their onstage performance of “Schüttel die Bienen,” which is German for “Shuttle the Bees.” Onstage blocking included a desperate apple-smashing and a madcap tricycle ride.

“Staying calm, remaining focused, and not getting overwhelmed” was essential, despite the pair’s awareness of time ticking away, Brady recalled, while waiting for the judge’s verdict. “Creating something cohesive in just 24 hours” was intense, added Gravel.

However, Gravel and Brady didn’t win the $500 award in the live performance category; instead, it went to singer/ songwriter duo Lisa Sidorian, a junior communications major from Utica, N.Y., and Tim Bicknese, a Hilton Head, S.C., business major in his sophomore year. The lyrics of their original composition for acoustic guitar seemed to reflect the power of time itself, not only in the 24-hour Festival, but in the years between childhood and adulthood: “Remember when we were kids? We had all the time in the world. Ice cream truck, we’re all round up. Days go by, years go by. Time doesn’t love anyone. We hope to be remembered.”

Senior Ben Kirchman, originally from Spring Hill, won $500 for his film “The Lonely Man” in the moving images category. Working alone, he used his laptop computer’s camera to gather images of trees and props along local nature trails for his comic interpretation of his character’s personal and spiritual relationships.

A theater major, Kirchman sheepishly confided after his win was announced that he is West Coast-bound following his graduation, and also that he got only six hours of sleep the night before.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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