Review written by Eve Speer
I went to see My First Time alone. I could see the brightly colored lamps and throw pillows from the street. Mod A Go Go is like a jewel that hovers over East South Temple. Parking was easy to find behind the building—but there was also plenty of parking on the street as I approached the designer second hand store. Michele Case Rideout, one of the producers, greeted me as I walked in the door. We chatted about the beautiful space and she gave me a survey to fill out, asking me general questions about my first time. What first time are we talking about? First time at the park? First time driving a car? My first time having SEX! As a 37 year old, unmarried woman, I felt scandalous as I filled out my little form. I felt vulnerable and apologetic. It was all very confidential—and completely non-judgmental—but it was frightening answering such questions as, “If you were to see this person today, what would you say?” Even as a mature woman, comfortable with myself, I giggled at the forbidden nature of the entire topic.
During the show, four actors share a variety of stories from the thousands of people who privately posted on the website created by Peter Foldy and Craig Smart called www.myfirsttime.com . As a result of surveying the audience members—we felt we were in the thick of the vulnerability, rather than just observing like voyeurs. Intermingled with funny and thoughtful stories—we’d read projected statistics from different countries, local statistics—and statistics from the audience that night. The average first time age in our audience was 19.4 and there were 4 virgins in attendance.
The stories were complicated and simple. As each actor would start a story, the audience would listen attentively, trying to figure out if this story was going to be funny, tender, shocking, sad, embarrassing, awkward, or horrifying. Each experience shared held a rainbow of possible reactions. Sex is this incredibly simple act when it comes down to it. Teenagers find ways to have it, despite parents’ best efforts to thwart their efforts. And yet, it’s so complicated. The power lost, the power gained. The love shared, the fear, the laughter, the tears—all of these feelings well up based on how and why we approach this single simple act.
The stories, assembled into a play by Ken Davenport, were presented by Rachel Shull, Austin Stephenson, Mia Tate, and David Evanoff. Each actor brought a different color to their stories. Rachel Shull was polite, sweet, and a bit reserved. Her stories were like fairy tales—told through a beautiful rose colored glass. Sometimes, I was put off by the distance she seemed to place between me and her stories. Her vocal affectation put me off—but as the presentation continued—I realized she was representing the stories told by people who were themselves distancing me from their stories. I felt suspicious at first—not entirely believing the tale—and then she’d throw a curve ball of warm gooey honesty.
Austin Stephenson designed the lights and played the young, dumb, sweet naïve guy. During one of the tales—he and David Evanoff told their stories in tandem. Austin’s sweet story was about his friend’s rape. David Evanoff’s story was about raping a young girl. David Evanoff’s smarmy story, told from the point of view of someone who believed they were just having a good time, and Austin Stephenson’s broken hearted story, paralleled how much men can both care and how much they can hurt.
Mia Tate was matter of fact in her telling. There was no affectation in her presentation. As she shared, I began to wonder if the story she was telling was in fact her own story. And then she’d share another first time that left me with the same feelings. Her performance was pure and riveting.
The entire production created a range of emotions and left me at peace with my own past. When I went to the show, I wondered why directors Amy Allred and David Hanson would choose to share this play. I got my answer. Your answer might be different. It is storytelling at its best. Obviously, these stories are told by adults for adults. Granted, I think there are some teenagers who would benefit from some of the lessons found in the stories. Hindsight is a comfort and I am delighted to no longer be a confused teenager.
The show is produced by A-Muses and Silver Summit Theatre Company. The performance takes place at Mod A Go Go, located at 242 E South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah. For more information on the show, visit www.silversummittheatre.org.
Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 PM, one weekend only. The house is open at 7 PM, but come early and browse Mod A Go Go’s amazing showroom. General seating is almost sold out, but limited reserve table seating is still available by calling 801-541-7376.