The Alliance Theatre, the premier theater company of Atlanta, is part of the Woodruff Arts Center in the Midtown area of the city. The Arts Center also includes the High Museum of Art and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Other attractions nearby include the Fox Theatre, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum and the Center for Puppetry Arts. The Alliance can be reached from the Interstate 75/85 Downtown Connector. MARTA, Atlanta's public transit system, has a train station at the Arts Center, and the area is also served by bus.
The Alliance Theatre, formed in 1968, is the leading resident theater company in the Southeast, and is one of the most prominent regional theaters in the country. In 2007, the Alliance won the Regional Theatre Tony Award. In addition to its main stage, the theater offers the Hertz Stage, which produces more offbeat works, and the Children's Stage. The Alliance also has film and stage acting classes for all ages, workshops and summer camps.
The theater first came to national prominence in the 1990s, under the artistic direction of Kenny Leon. Leon demanded, through his productions, that the theater become more responsive to the city's African American community. During his tenure, the Alliance's African American audience grew from five percent to 25 percent of ticket buyers. Leon resigned from the Alliance in 2000 and has gone on to direct on Broadway and form another company in Atlanta.
In 2001, the Alliance selected Susan V. Booth as the new artistic director. Booth immediately put her own stamp on the company by partnering with smaller local theaters, in part seeking to broaden the audience of the Alliance. She created the Collision Project, in which a playwright collaborates with high-school students in creating a new play, and she has fostered the Kendeda Graduate Playwright Competition, which chooses a student playwright's work and produces it on the main stage of the theater.
The Alliance has premiered more than 50 works, several of which have gone on to Broadway, including Pearl Cleage's Blues for an Alabama Sky; The Color Purple; Elton John and Tim Rice's Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, which became the Broadway hit Aida; Alfred Uhry's The Last Night of Ballyhoo and many others from both nationally known and local playwrights. Scott Sanders, who produced The Color Purple for the Alliance says, "Starting with Kenny Leon's work and certainly now with Susan's, the Alliance has become a real force ... in the development of new work.''
The Regional Tony award has brought even more national recognition to the Alliance. Howard Sherman, executive director of the organization that presents the Tonys, said in the New York Times that the theater "has `balanced that [nationally recognized work] with a strong commitment to new writers and education.''' Chris Jones, a theater critic on the committee for the Regional Tonys, said in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "`I think the members of the association responded to a long history at the Alliance, and also a sense that the theater is being rejuvenated under Ms. Booth.'' Subscribership has been going up throughout the decade, after falling dramatically after 9/11. With the national attention that has come with the Tony, the Alliance Theatre looks like it's going to be onstage for a long run.