The Coca-Cola Stage at Alliance Theatre

[The Coca-Cola Stage] is a dazzling addition to the Woodruff Arts Center, a birthday present worthy of the Alliance’s 50th anniversary, and an opulent home for its world-class theater. 
–Wendell Brock, Atlanta Journal Constitution

When the Alliance Theatre set out to redesign its main performance space there were several items on the wish list. The new space had to be acoustically perfect for spoken word and musicals, with state-of-the-art technology used in live theater. The new space needed to provide an intimate seating chamber for audience members that removed all separation from audience and performers to create a truly shared experience. It needed to have good interior flow (the orchestra and balcony levels were completely separated in the old Alliance main stage, which opened in 1968.) And it needed to be beautiful.  


The Alliance found everything it was looking for in the design from Trahan Architects, led by founder Victor F. “Trey” Trahan and partners Leigh Breslau and Brad McWhirter, including the touch of an artist. The interior of the Alliance Theatre chamber is wrapped with beautiful, steam-bent oak, in the style of celebrated furniture and design artist Matthias Pliessnig. Pliessnig’s pieces can be seen in permanent collections at the Museum of Art and Design in New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C., and the James A. Michener Art Museum.  

Pliessnig worked closely with Trahan to design the woodwork in the Alliance’s new space. The complexity and scale of Pliessnig’s designs quickly necessitated the investigation of 3D projection and modeling for creation and installation, which until now had only been used to calibrate manufacturing processes. Two companies stood out that could deliver this kind of work – CW Keller + Associates, expert fabricators for creating all the steam-bent wood elements for the space, and FARO Technologies, who uses industry-leading projector and scan data technology for precision installation. While this technology has been used in aerospace for years, the integration of the projector with scan data (as FARO has done, relevant for build and site install) was not available until very recently.  


The walls and ceiling of the chamber and lobby are lined in solid stock wood. Each 1/2” x 1/2” rift sawn oak strand is sourced from fallen trees. This system creates very little waste and beckons patrons to engage directly with each element in a physical way. Over time the wood will patina and age by dynamic use and human touch. Finished in hand rubbed dye and fire proof finishing, the surfaces of the project are works of art in and of themselves. By achieving a high level of precision, this modeling interface enables the true artistry and craft of each element to translate into the final installation.

Not only is the bent wood beautiful, it produces acoustically tuned forms that amplify the artistry performed onstage. The acoustician on the project is Richard “Rick” Talaske, president and principal acoustics consultant for the firm TALASKE | sound thinking. Architect, Acoustician, and Artist combine precise digital modeling with the craftsmanship of steam bending oak. Deep exploration into steam bending techniques produced balcony and side terraces which perform acoustically, with whisper-sensitive precision, and ergonomically. The final material system is a marriage of contemporary digital technology and time tested hand craft.  

Completing the Alliance’s wish list, Trahan delivered a design that reduced the size of the orchestra pit and moved the audience as much as 15 feet closer to the stage. This, combined with reducing seat count from 770 to 650 and curving the seating bowl and balcony, has created a more intimate room where audience members can better connect with the actors and each other. Two interior staircases provide access to the balcony level from inside the theater, and interior ramps allow ADA seating at three levels of the theatre – lower orchestra, orchestra, and balcony.  


Outside of the Coca-Cola Stage, the Alliance renovation also includes additional artist support spaces, including two new rehearsal halls, new dressing rooms and green room spaces, and a new costume shop.  

As a result of this transformation, the Alliance is going to be able to offer our patrons, our artists, and the city of Atlanta an iconic and defining space in which to experience and make theater. Our patrons have become accustomed to transformative theater on our stage, and now through the exceptional quality of this design, our architecture will match and enhance that artistry. 
–Susan V. Booth, Jennings Hertz Artistic Director

A By-The-Numbers Look at the Alliance Theatre's Coca-Cola Stage

  • $32 million total renovation cost
  • 770 to 650 seats, moving the audience 15 feet closer to the stage
  • Two sensory-friendly spaces
  • Five new dressing rooms for performers
  • 212 wooden panels

Read the full article on ArtsATL here.
Watch a time-lapse video of the renovation here.
Read an article from Atlanta Journal Constitution about our exciting new space here.
View the new seat map here.


Awards and Accolades 

Distinguished AIA Interior Architecture Award, 2021
Dezeen Award Nomination for Civic and Cultural Interior of the Year, 2020


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