My First Time: Getting To Know You
Did you ever let your mind wander during a play, look around the audience and wonder what would be the average age that the people surrounding you first had sex? Ever try and determine exactly how many virgins were sitting in the theatre with you?
That's the kind of info to be shared at each performance of My First Time, director/writer/producer Ken Davenport's new theatre piece inspired by the nearly 10-year-old web site myfirsttime.com, where guests are invited to anonymously submit the glorious (or gruesome) details of their first sexual encounter. Oh, don't worry – you won't be called up on stage or have your name and number of partners read aloud, but as you take your seat at New World Stages you'll find a large index card asking (if you have indeed had sex) for details such as the first name of your then-partner, your age at the time and where it was done. (The souvenir pen is yours to keep!) Throughout the performance, the four actors (Bill Dawes, Josh Heine, Kathy Searle and Cydnee Welburn) rattle off the results like a living Excel spreadsheet and figures such as the number of virgins in the audience and the average age the others were devirginized are flashed on a projection screen, along with numerous other sexual tidbits. (One projection informs us that the average age for first sexual experience in this country is 15.8.)
Numbers are nice, but it's the stories people want to hear, and the cast delivers them with casual warmth that's fun, light and conversational. There's nothing racy or shocking about the evening, nor is it dry and clinical. The four actors, simply placed at four stools, talk about sex in a manner that's refreshingly human and approachable. Tales of being the only two left at work after hours, insane birth control advice and surprise encounters at high school sleepovers receive chummy chuckles as audience members relate them to their own experiences. But even when the show gets more serious, like in the story of the young girl whose brother has leukemia and doesn't want to die a virgin, the mood never gets overly gloomy. Rape and serious cases of sexually transmitted diseases are understandably barely mentioned in what is essentially a feel-good show, but the overwhelmingly hetero evening can use more than its two stories about gay encounters in order to feel less exclusionary.
Still, many will find My First Time a terrific choice for date night and certainly one that can ignite some revealing post-theatre conversation. Particularly when it comes to the last question asked of the audience, "If your first sexual partner were here right now, what would you say to him/her?" They didn't use my response of "I'm much better at it now," but the person who wrote, "Give me the child support! You owe me $70,000!" got roars of laughter. And when an actor read the loving sentiment, "It's been 42 years and I still get a hard-on holding you hand," the audience let out a soft, communal "awwwwwwww."
Photos by Drew Geraci: Top: Bill Dawes, Cydnee Welburn, Josh Heine, and Kathy Searle
Bottom: Bill Dawes