Joining a Theater Club Set the Stage for Romance

As freshman at the University of Alabama, Allison Lyn Mollenkamp and William James McCrary were among a group of seven students that staged a production of “Foreplay Or: The Art of the Fugue,” a short play from the anthology “All in the Timing,” written by David Ives.

A few weeks ago, Ms. Mollenkamp and Mr. McCrary, both 26, became the second couple from that group of seven to marry. (A third is engaged.)

Their walk down the aisle came almost eight years after they met through a theater club on campus, in September 2014. Ms. Mollenkamp, who is from Jefferson City, Mo., said she had been a “theater kid” for most of her life, but Mr. McCrary, who grew up in Birmingham, Ala., had only taken a recent interest in the art form. “I Googled ‘cool clubs at the University of Alabama,’ or something like that,” he said, before deciding to join.

That fall, when the club asked for volunteers to direct short plays, Ms. Mollenkamp jumped at the opportunity. Although inexperienced, Mr. McCrary did as well, in part to get to know her better. “I talked to her a little bit,” he said. “I thought she was cute.”

In “Foreplay,” the two were cast as actors. While chatting at rehearsals, they discovered common bonds. Both are trumpet players, as well as the eldest child in their respective families; she has two siblings, he has one. Their first official date, initiated by Ms. Mollenkamp, took place in February 2015, at a Starbucks on campus. Upon meeting, they learned of another shared trait: Neither drinks coffee. (Both got hot chocolate.)

They soon began to have regular lunch dates and, that March, had a first kiss. It followed a theater rehearsal — and a failed kiss attempt earlier that day while they were walking along the Black Warrior River, which sits between the cities of Northport and Tuscaloosa. As they sat on a bench overlooking the river, Ms. Mollenkamp recalled thinking, “OK, we’re probably coming up on a first kiss here, right?” But the moment was spoiled by two unicyclists pedaling nearby. “It didn’t really feel very private or romantic,” she said.

When both graduated in May 2018 — he with a bachelor’s degree in history and anthropology, and she with a bachelor’s degree in English — Mr. McCrary took a yearlong position with AmeriCorps in Birmingham, while Ms. Mollenkamp moved to Lincoln, Neb., to work at a public radio station broadcast by what is now known as Nebraska Public Media.

Determined to make it work long-distance, Ms. Mollenkamp said she began to use “all of my newly acquired salaried job money on plane tickets.”

That Christmas, she gave Mr. McCrary a toothbrush, which she described as more of a “symbolic” gift. The gesture meant that “you’ll always have a toothbrush in my place, you can always be here,” she said.

The following year, after Mr. McCrary completed his stint with AmeriCorps, he moved to Lincoln, in July 2019. When the pandemic arrived in March 2020, he further reduced the distance between them by staying for a period at Ms. Mollenkamp’s apartment. “That was when it turned into when we get married, not if we get married,” she said.

They became engaged that June, following another gift exchange: For Ms. Mollenkamp’s birthday, Mr. McCrary gave her an engagement ring. The ring, which has a green tourmaline stone, was purchased on Etsy and chosen to match the wedding band she had inherited from her great-grandmother.

In August 2020, they relocated to College Park, Md., with plans for both to attend graduate school at the University of Maryland. Mr. McCrary, who started a master’s degree in history and library science, now works as a manager at the university’s book store. Ms. Mollenkamp, who has a master’s degree in journalism from the university, is a fellow on the investigations team at NPR in Washington, where the couple moved in June.

On July 23, they were wed before 29 guests in the backyard of Ms. Mollenkamp’s parents’ home in Jefferson City. Elisabeth Blotevogel, a friend of the couple who was ordained a Universal Life minister for the occasion, officiated at the ceremony, which included musical performances by the bride’s younger brothers and her sister-in-law.

“I loved singing with my brothers growing up,” Ms. Mollenkamp said. “They’ve made music together for a long time.”

One song performed by the trio, “If We Were Vampires” by Jason Isbell, “makes me think of riding in the car at night” with the groom, the bride said. “That’s the one that made me start crying.”