My First Time: Funny, silly, sweet, and disturbing...but not boring

My First Time
Presented by Simply Theatre
Written by Ken Davenport
Inspired by the website
Created by Peter Foldy and Craig Stuart
Directed by Dale Hirlehey
Produced by Jeremy Hewitson
Cast:  John McKenzie, Julia Lacasse, Thomas Fox, Hannah Vanden Boomen, Sam Didi, and Kristen Keller

My First Time is an interactive play inspired by the website of the same name created by Peter Foldy and Craig Stuart in 1997. The site designers state that they created the site, “to see if other people’s first time’s sucked as bad as ours did.” 

It’s a good point; the first time we do anything is almost never all that impressive. Babies taking their first steps look like little drunks, not runway models. First time drivers are not exactly ready for the Indy 500. A first tooth hurts like heck coming in, and makes you drool and cry. First times usually suck. We forget what they are really all about – figuring out what we are doing wrong so that the next time we can do it right, getting the pain over with, experiencing the unexpected. Why on earth do we assume that our first sexual experience should be a pink and rosy romantic dream come true? 

My First Time slickly combines analytics of historical data and interesting and amusing cherry-picked stories of the ‘first times’ of contributors to the web site, with the same type of information gathered from the audience at each show. A questionnaire is given to the audience prior to the show and fed into spreadsheets to analyze the statistics and choose stories for use interactively in the play.

The production shares with us the stories of the many (gleaned from the website) and the few (the the results of the questionnaire of our own little group – the audience). Beware: Your stats and possibly your story will become part of the show.

On the evening that I saw My First Time, Hannah Vanden Boomen (Woman #2) was out of commission with laryngitis. Tammy Heisel bravely stepped in to read for Vanden Boomen. 

Lesson One for First Times: Dealing with the unexpected. The cast initially seemed thrown, the snap timing required to move from one snippet of a story to another, creating a chorus of voices and experiences, was off. The back and forth of presentations of trivia from the website and questionnaire on screen, to individual stories, to single sentences from a selection of stories read serially, would be challenging in terms of timing and sequence for actors who have rehearsed for months. For her ‘first time’ in a role in the play, Heisel did an impressive job. As the play continued, the players gained confidence, lost their self-conscious edges, and found their own chemistry with each other.

The timing and energy of the group towards the end of the play was like watching a first date gone right. The amazing characterizations of Kristen Keller (Photo, right) must be singled out as she gave expression to the wide range of people involved through the website. Keller’s character’s accents, body language, and facial expressions told their stories in the unique voice of each story teller.

The actors use no props and are simply seated on stools across the stage. Lighting is also spare and used mainly to highlight current speakers or stories. This simple presentation allows the stories themselves to retain the spotlight. Funny, silly, sweet, and disturbing, you know what the one thing My First Time never is? Boring.

Each tale is unique, yet the commonality of the themes that arise from this anthology is comforting.

My First Time shows us that no matter how clumsy, romantic, disappointing, silly, sad, funny, or traumatic your first time may have been, you are not alone (even if you were alone). The stories (53,994 and counting) run the gamut of human sexuality and experience. The juxtaposition of multiple viewpoints on similar issues raise many topics for discussion. Example: The story of a man in his 70’s (“No didn’t always mean No in those days…) is told in tandem with more current stories from a sleazy bartender who gets a barely legal girl drunk and stoned and has sex with her (over her objections), and a young man retelling the sad story of his first love’s betrayal of trust by her own parents. Stories of Coca-cola contraception, taboos broken, and whether virginity is a gift or a curse are just some of the topics raised. And, of course, we all have our own first-time tale  or future plan. 

Whether you are on a first date, a 400th date, or bringing your teenagers, you are sure to have lots to do and maybe even talk about after My First Time. 

Jamie-Lee Wilson is a closet novelist and huge fan of live theatre.