Sculpture with a Stage: The Incredible Engineering Behind the Alliance Theatre’s Coca-Cola Stage
In the heart of Midtown, the newly renovated Coca-Cola Stage blends engineering and architecture to create a world-class performing arts venue.
Watch our interview with Managing Director Mike Schleifer to learn more about the Alliance Theatre renovation of the Coca-Cola Stage, including clips from its inaugural production of “Ever After.”
Alliance Theatre Managing Director Mike Schleifer calls it a “sculpture with a stage.” The newly renovated Coca-Cola Stage at the Alliance Theatre is more than a world-class theatre facility—it’s an architectural achievement. The technology and engineering that went into the renovation make this Midtown venue one of the most advanced performance spaces of its kind, anywhere.
The original Alliance Theatre stage was designed with straight lines and right angles. The balcony area used a separate entrance and was not accessible from inside the audience chamber. | Photo courtesy of the Alliance Theatre
Acousticians, engineers and architects worked together to design the state-of-the-art Coca-Cola Stage at the Alliance Theatre. A glassed-in, sound protected seating area at the rear of the audience chamber is intended to create special seating for children or people with sensory sensitivities. The space has also proven useful for latecomers, as well as a place where the production team can talk during the rehearsal process without disturbing actors on stage, according to managing director Mike Schleifer.
Where before there were right angles and straight lines, there are now curves and contours, all wrapped in intricate woodwork made up of more than 250K linear feet of white oak strands that bubble from floor to ceiling. Though there’s slightly less of it now, the seating curves around closer to the stage, making what once was disconnected now feel intimate.
Previously located below the stage, the Alliance Theatre's expanded costume workshop has relocated to the fourth floor. Unlike exhibiting theaters, the Alliance creates original costumes for all its productions.
The improvements extend beyond the stage itself. Part of the renovation included creating a new space for the Alliance costume department which is now larger and sunnier thanks to a move to the fourth floor and the addition of skylights. Dressing rooms, rehearsal halls, backstage space—all redesigned to state-of-the-art standards and renovated within the Woodruff Arts Center’s existing footprint.
A Spoken-Word Theater
The Alliance worked with acousticians at Talaske Group to design the theatre in such a way that some pieces could be performed without amplification. Every part of the design, from the spacing of the woodwork to the materials used on the seats, was taken into account to create a whisper-sensitive room. The acousticians considered everything, including details the audience could never notice, like the widened diameter of the HVAC system that allows air to move more slowly and quietly in the background. Next up on the Coca Cola Stage is a production of the play “Angry, Raucous and Shamelessly Gorgeous” by Pearl Cleage. The Alliance production will be completely unamplified.
Award-Winning Theatre Starts Here
Now with the best in both talent and technology, the Alliance can continue its history of producing new works that have gone on to successful Broadway runs. Since 1996, nine productions that premiered at the Alliance have continued to Broadway, including “The Prom” that is currently playing at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway. Others productions that made it to the Great White Way include “So Long on Lonely Street,” “The Last Night of Ballyhoo,” “Aida,” “The Color Purple,” “Come Fly Away,” “Sister Act: The Musical,” “Bring it On: The Musical,” and “Tuck Everlasting.”
“It’s a national theatre with a Midtown zip code,” Schleifer said.
Midtown Atlanta: Heart of the Arts
The renovation of the Coca-Cola stage further contributes to Midtown's status as an arts district. In addition to the art created on stage, the structure itself is Midtown's newest architectural achievement.
"I think Midtown is the artistic and cultural hub of Atlanta. Not only do we have the Alliance, but we have the rest of the campus here at the Woodruff ... SCAD is down the road, MODA, Synchronicity, and the thing that we have now is this new Midtown iconic piece of architecture that people should come and explore," Schleifer said.