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January 21, 2010

My First Time

by Jesse North
Social media has so quickly become a permanent aspect of our lives that we have already begun to see it seep into the arts. David Fincher is set to release his film, The Social Network, about the founding of Facebook in October. But years before Facebook even came across our computer screens, a website called My First Time was amassing mountains of submissions from Web surfers about their memories of losing their virginity. Those submissions have been turned into a delightful off-Broadway play of four actors, a projection screen, and a bunch of hilarious and touching monologues.

Seeing My First Time at New World Stages isn’t just seeing a play—it’s an experience. Go with a friend (not a parent), and if you have a good experience, the play should have you discussing the night’s subject matter long after you leave the theater. You and your buddy will walk in and find a survey (and a My First Time pen!) on your seats. Take a deep breath—they’re anonymous. The survey asks you to share how old you were when you lost your virginity, what your partner’s name was, where you did it, if you still keep in touch, if you felt pressured, how good the experience was, if you used contraception, and what you would say to your partner if they were with you today. Ushers collect the cards and they become part of the show (calm down! I already said they were anonymous).

While the audience waits for the performance to start, a projection screen flashes statistics, both domestic and worldwide, about people’s first sexual experience: average ages, percentages of people that felt pressured into it, as well as quotes from famous authors about sex. Minutes before the show begins, the statistics projected are ones tabulated from the audience’s surveys—a funny and effective way of getting the audience involved. Throughout the show, the actors pull out the survey cards and read from them—a segment which provided uproarious laughter when I saw the show.

At my performance, Dana Watkins, Cydnee Welburn, Ian White, and Vi Flaten were the four actors perched on stools to deliver the monologues. The play, which features only stories from real people that have been submitted to the My First Time website, was adapted by Ken Davenport, and his formula of long monologues, quick quips, and even mere single words flows at a great pace. The play is peppered with episodes of longer monologues, but never becomes monotonous with five-minute story after five-minute story, because the four actors are racing through comments and observations on their many characters’ first sexual experiences. At times, the play can be a whirlwind. While always delightful, I found difficulty focusing on all the great stories, because they were being trampled by the stampede of subsequent anecdotes.

This is a play about sex, and yes it’s funny; but it shouldn’t be mistaken as crass or immature. A pleasant aspect of this show is how touching a lot of the stories are. Some are heartwarming (a wheelchair-bound high schooler who teaches a young girl he’s no different than any other guy), some are tragic (a boy dreams of his first time with his crush, which never comes to fruition, because she is raped), and some highlight the cruel misunderstandings of sex (a girl receives misguided advice on contraception from a friend). The four actors handle themselves well with the rapid-fire stories, and while the two guys (Watkins and White) do a fine job, it’s the ladies (Welburn and Flaten) who really charm and show a little more spunk.

My First Time closes tomorrow, and if you can make it, it is money well spent. I was invited to see the show and did not rush it, but there is a student rush policy. Tickets are $25, one ticket per ID, and on sale when the box office opens.

Play: B

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