DID YOU know that the average age a Korean loses his or her virginity is 19.8? When did you have your first sexual experience? Where, and with whom? These are indeed embarrassing questions to either ask or answer. Sex is a topic which attracts much attention; yet, many people find it awkward to bring up. Nevertheless, let’s be honest. Aren’t you curious about how others remember their first time? Was your first time strange, painful or nothing but what you have imagined? Relieve yourself! You are not the only one! Here is a play that will make you feel better by presenting diverse first time stories.
Gossip from all over the world
The play My First Time initially began in the United States in 1996. The play is as authentic as it can be, for it is constructed from numerous real-life stories. It all started with a curiosity to discover how people’s first sexual experience was, which led to the creation of a website (www.myfirsttime.com) where people could post stories about losing their virginity. Surprisingly, over 40,000 people from all over the world participated in sharing their intimate anecdotes. Later on, Ken Davenport (Director of the original play) placed the content of the site on stage. After years of constant success in the battlefield of the U.S. Off-Broadway venues, notorious for its difficulty in achieving a long run performance, My First Time has finally landed in Korea. The play has been transposed into Korean with little changes. The biggest characteristic of the play, the authentic structure, remained.
In the play, four actors each sit in a chair, and begin their gossip. They relate to sex in a friendly way that the audiences feel like they are listening to their friend’s stories. Moreover, because the play is based on stories from a variety of countries, sent by different sorts of people, it embraces all types of audiences with dissimilar ages, backgrounds, experiences or race.
Since the cast speaks to the audience in a first person narrative, the invisible boundary separating the fictional setting and the audience, the fourth wall, is absent in this play. Due to such a feature, it seems more like a stand-up comedy or a talk show. Yet, short episodes are acted out intermittently throughout the play, confirming that it is a play indeed. Although it is not easy to define the exact genre of My First Time, the disparate aspects of the play contribute in forming a tight relationship between the actors and the audience.
Another element which brings the audience closer to the actors and the play itself are the questionnaires distributed to the audience before the play begins. The questionnaire contains a dozen straightforward questions related to the audience member’s first sexual experience. Throughout the play, the results are summarized in order to provide statistical figures that are flashed on a big screen located at the back of the stage. Such interesting results include the percentage of the audience who did not use contraception and the proportion of the audience still keeping in touch with their first time partners. Furthermore, the responses which cannot be calculated, such as the name of the first partner, age at the time, and place, are read out loud by the cast between the episodes. To the question, “If your first sex partner was here at this moment, what would you tell him or her?” someone wrote “Yours was the biggest,” which aroused uproarious laughter. Some sweet responses such as “I love you, will you be my first and last partner?” made the audience let out a collective exclamation of encouragement. Thus, the play breathes along with the audience.
A healing play: catharsis
The play contains stories ranging from hetero-sexual love to a homo-sexual relationship, date rape, and even incest. As unique as each of these first night tales are, people’s memories about their first sexual intercourse are multifarious. Although it is the first and not the last, many are left with regrets that it did not turn out the way they wanted it to be. However, by watching the play, the audiences come to realize that they are not the only ones to have such remorse. As the saying goes, “Misery loves company.” The audiences who have suffered from unpleasant memories sympathize with the characters in the stories. They are also consoled and brought forth to see their own first experience under more optimistic perspective, thereby feeling catharsis. The play indicates that an experience is merely a memory that should be left in the past or a scaffold which will contribute in creating more successful and satisfying relationships in the present and future. Besides, in this play, having sexual desires or making love is not regarded as vulgar but totally normal and even beautiful when with the person one loves.
* * *
Everyone dreams of an “ideal” first time. Yet, no one can designate what a first sexual experience should be like. Instead, the emphasis should be laid on the adjective “first”. It is too much to wish for a “first time” to be perfect because it is literally just a first trial, like a baby who has succeeded in toddling for the first time. For those who have already experienced their first sex, the play will make them reflect upon and cherish it. For those who have not yet done so, the play will serve as a guidebook to learn from other’s experiences and remove the burden of a successful first night off. There is no absolute standard for a perfect relationship. Perfection comes with experiences.
* The average loss of virginity age in France is 16.8
* The average loss of virginity age in China is 18.2
* The average loss of virginity age in Korea is 19.8
Interview with director Kim Dong-yeon
Q: How did you come to direct the play My First Time?
A: When I was offered the opportunity to direct this play, I watched it in New York for the first time. I found it very refreshing compared to other plays I have seen until then. Not only was the script innovative but also the way the play was run. It is true that at first, I was concerned that the Korean audience might find the play too offensive. However, as I directed it, I noticed the play has a charm which attracts the audience’s attention as well as sympathy.
Q: How is the Korean version of My First Time different from the U.S. version?
A: The unique characteristic of the Korean version is its theatrical aspect. Unlike the U.S. version, where the actors remain seated most of the time during the play, the Korean version is much livelier due to the reenactments. Indeed, the American audiences are much more used to stand-up comedies, in which the performers speak directly to the audience, than Koreans. That is the reason why I decided to place more stress upon the theatrical aspect of the show, which Koreans find easier to approach.
Title: My First Time
Date: Jan. 3, 2009 ~ March 31, 2009
Place: Art Madang Theater, Daehangno