If you attended even a little theater this year, chances are you crossed paths with Brett Love—tall guy, big forked beard, gentle manner, often rides a motorcycle around town as he scoots from lobby to lobby as Seattle's most devoted audience member. When we talked earlier this month, he admitted he'd only seen 270 theater and dance performances in 2014. That's just 5.2 per week, down from last year's record of 310 shows—but it still tops 2012, when he sat through 241. (As a rule, he does not sneak out early. Theater people, as you might imagine, adore him.)
"Guess how long I've spent waiting for shows to start this year," Love says. "I mean, the time between what it says on the ticket and when the show actually starts." He pauses. "Thirty hours—1,800 minutes." That's an average of 6.66 minutes per performance. "Everybody starts their shows late, and I don't see why," he says. "'We're holding the show because traffic is bad.' Traffic is bad every day! Parking is bad on Capitol Hill every day!" Love says he has a "logical mind," so the excuse bugs him. "'We're waiting for a few people who are late, but the 90 of you already sitting there—your time is not important.' A bargain was made when I purchased the ticket that the show would start at a certain time."
It bothers him for a practical reason, too—he often plans to see multiple performances in a night, and late starts eat into the travel time he's calculated between theaters.
Love describes himself as "an IT guy from the Eastside" and a "serial obsessionist." Before he started bingeing on performance, he says he was "crazy into television," and would configure three different VCRs to record everything when he went out of town, with instructions for friends and roommates about when to switch the tapes. He's also gone down the rabbit holes of golf—"It got to where I can shoot in the 80s"—tennis, basketball, and Seattle's early-'90s live music scene.
He got stuck on performance in 2010 after attending a dance performance titled
A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light at ACT Theatre. He went on a whim, but the experience moved him deeply. "It literally changed my life," he says. He was on his way home across the 520 Bridge when he began to wonder what else he'd been missing—and decided he was going to find out.
This year, he's grown more and more attracted to new work. "Theater in general leans on the past too much," Love says. "It's an easier sell if you're doing a play a huge portion of your audience already recognizes, but I'd rather hear: 'Hey, we've got this guy from Greenwood who wrote this thing that's gonna be weird.' You find the special things when people take those risks."
In 2014, he was especially taken with two crazy-sounding productions by young companies. The first was <em>Barn Show by Blood Ensemble, in which the company created an ominous family history to be performed in a century-old barn they found 35 miles north of Seattle. "I thought I was going to be sitting in that barn in Marysville with three people," Love says. "But they sold out every show and had to add more." The second, Attempts on Her Life by the Horse in Motion, turned the University Heights Center into a three-story performance space where audiences were guided from room to room to see different scenes from Martin Crimp's notoriously thorny and fragmented work (in which no lines are assigned to any particular character). But his top-rated performance for 2014 was Gone Wild by the Libertinis. "They're billed as a burlesque troupe, but really they're a theater company that incorporates burlesque," he says. "It was a really funny, really great, perfect little show."
This year, Love has also gotten more involved in making theater. He is on the artistic board for the Pocket Theater in Greenwood, served as a community ambassador for On the Boards, and got onstage as one of the storytellers for the recurring Passion Project. (Guess which passion he talked about.) His work with theater partially explains why he hasn't seen as much of it this year—it's a truism that theater-makers see far less theater than normal audience members—but he has no intentions of going pro, as either a performer or a critic. Turning it into a job, he says, would take away the fun.
How much longer before another hobby comes along and consumes his attention? "I have it in the back of my head that someday I'll say: 'Okay, I'm done with theater. I've figured it out, saw what I needed to see, and now I'm going to get wrapped up in something else.'"
But for now, Love just plans to see more. He's already got 20 shows on his schedule for 2015.