Faye Allen and Del Hamilton love theater — and each other. In 1979, they co-founded 7 Stages Theatre in Little Five Points. A year later, they moved in together.
A couple for 34 years, they have run an innovative, risk-taking theater. They have traveled the globe, with a special interest with building international partnerships. They return home and experiment with new ethnic recipes.
Still, there was one thing they never did until just recently — get married.
“I was like a rebel,” said Allen, 63. “I didn’t think a piece of paper mattered. It was from the whole hippie days.”
With a sigh and a smile, Allen explained why they finally tied the knot: “I realized I loved Del and I have loved him all of these years and being married has certain advantages.”
Those advantages include tax benefits as well as visitation rights in the intensive care unit of a hospital, the kinds of things you think about as you age.
When Allen and Hamilton, who don’t have children, first met in 1978 (in a theater, of course), they got into a bit of a row. A theater company Allen had been running in Virginia-Highland, Open City Theatre, was on the verge on closing, and in walks Hamilton with a measuring tape ready to take over.
“I thought it was rude and I threw him out,” Allen said.
But she was still interested. She liked his work, and before long she knew he was the One.
“We fell in love at first sight,” Allen said. “I thought he was sexy and I knew he was smart and maybe good for me. I knew I would be good for him.”
Allen and Hamilton have become known for developing shows with a political edge and supporting original scripts and local playwrights. Their theater was one of the first Atlanta companies to forge international ties with other troupes. They gave Kenny Leon his first professional directing gig -- “Love and Trouble,” which was performed in 1986 and co-written by Pearl Cleage and her husband Zaron Burnett, Jr.
7 Stages also has been a stalwart champion of African-Americans, gays, women and immigrants. In 1986, the Ku Klux Klan showed up to protest “Bang Bang Uber Alles,” a musical about the rise of the Klan.
“As with most artists, art is a major current that moves through our lives, and since we have similar artistic visions, we always felt in some ways our relationship was larger than the two of us,” Allen said.
Perky and affable, Allen gushes over her longtime romantic and artistic partner. Hamilton, 70, is more reserved. Or, as Allen put it, “the quiet, silent type, the one you are always wondering what they are thinking.”
They long have been considered a perfect pairing, even if many people weren’t sure exactly what their status was. Richard Garner, co-founder of Georgia Shakespeare, said he knew them as a couple “but, frankly, I didn’t really know if they were married or not … it just never came up or seemed an issue.”
“The way they have persevered, both professionally and personally, is the story for them,” Garner said. “They have run a long, slow, steady course as the heads of 7 Stages Theatre. There have been a lot of ups and downs in that time and, in some instances, the fact that they kept on keeping on is notable and admirable. I don’t know their personal ups and downs, but the fact that they’re in love enough to get married after 30 years is a similar testament to perseverance.”
At times, especially in recent years, the couple contemplated tying the knot. They loved the idea of getting married at a friend’s house in Ireland, but once they got there a few years ago for a vacation, they realized they didn’t meet a residency requirement. So they jumped over a broom, sipped champagne and put the idea aside. Then, last November, the Decatur couple decided to make their relationship legal by getting married at the DeKalb County Courthouse.
7 Stages recently ushered in new leadership, with Hamilton and Allen stepping away from day-to-day duties to focus more on international exchanges. The couple recently returned from Israel and they hope to invite a theatrical group from there to Atlanta to direct a show.
“I think it is a beautiful thing,” said Camille Russell Love, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs for the city of Atlanta. “This [7 Stages] has been a labor of love for them and it’s intense. I hope they retire and take some time to enjoy each other.”
At 8 p.m. Jan. 28 Allen and Hamilton will say their vows (again) onstage at 7 Stages. Festivities will begin at 7 p.m., with cosmos and mimosas served and the Little Five Points Rockstar Orchestra performing. Special guests will include local playwright Cleage and Sahr Ngaujah from the Broadway musical “Fela!”
The event is open to the public and is a fundraiser. Instead of “fancy gifts,” the couple is asking that gifts be in the form of donations to the theater. Suggested dress code: formally outrageous.
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