He moves effortlessly from caller to in-studio guest to news segments, pulling facts and tidbits of information out of the air. When you leave, you sense that what you saw was magic — explainable with a hint of extraordinary.
As an actor and business owner, Sanders moves easily among roles, from working with clients to directing and starring in a production or putting guests at ease on the AM 1450 WBHF morning show.
Ask Sanders which job he treasures most and none of his occupations come close to the title of father. Whether in the booth or on the stage, the father of four certainly leaves the audience wanting more.
NAME: Alan J. Sanders
OCCUPATION: Radio host, actor/director and owner of AJS Productions, a website and production development company
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Cartersville
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science in Psychology, with minors in English literature, creative writing and performance communications
FAMILY: Married to Susan Delmonico; four daughters: Ashton Sanders, 16; Lexie Delmonico, 15; Elena Sanders, 13; and Sophie Delmonico, 11
You have your hand in a variety of areas — radio, acting, entrepreneur — how did you come to be involved in those areas?
A: Radio was an endeavor I more or less stumbled into thanks to a meeting I had back in 2000 with Matt Santini. At the time, he was doing the Saturday morning show and invited me as a guest to discuss local theatre happenings and other events of the day, and I had a blast. He invited me back a few times and eventually made the offer to bring me on as a co-host. Several years later, an opportunity to co-host the morning show on AM 1450 WBHF became available. Thanks to having a work-from-home classification — at that time — with IBM and getting permission from my boss, I have been doing the morning show since 2007.
Acting is a different matter. Those who know me have heard this story already. In college, I was much more interested in writing. Getting on stage in front of an audience was literally the furthest from my mind. During my sophomore year, a new class was offered, taught by Dr. John Gentile at Kennesaw State University, called, “Folklore and Storytelling.” It was billed as a new class that would delve into the history and roots of stories across cultures and how they were passed down through generations. I thought it would be a good class to take to aid in my writing. I had no idea that the word “storytelling” in the title of that class literally meant to stand in front of an audience and tell a story.
Halfway through the class I was failing. I had never failed a class in my life. My professor, who chose not to give up on me, gave me a chance to wipe the slate clean and start over if I could work on a story to tell at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center during an evening of storytelling, and thankfully, I knocked it out of the park. Shortly thereafter, I was invited to audition for a show and somehow — I had no idea what I was doing — got cast in the show. And I’ve been doing it ever since.
Entrepreneur? I like the sound of it, but it feels like a label that belongs to someone else. I still can’t believe that I own my own business, and after over two years, we continue to gain reputation and clients. I have to thank my wife on this one. I had been with IBM for over 13 years and had learned an awful lot while there, from writing intellectual property agreements to managing the IT infrastructure for all of the eBusiness development houses across North America to being a worldwide project manager. I thought I’d be with IBM the rest of my life. But, during the economic downturn of 2008, I was laid off and spent almost a year before I found a job as an IT manager for a company in Atlanta. I hated it! Long drive. Worked for a horribly insecure woman who put a new spin on the term micromanager. She was a miniscule manager. That didn’t last long, and while I was floundering to find something — anything — my wife asked me one night, “Why not start up your own web company? If you don’t get any business, it’s not like you are going to be any worse off than you are now.” Isn’t it amazing to hear how logical that sounds when it comes from someone else? Here I was, coming up with a thousand reasons why it would never work and she pointed out the one obvious one that made all the negativity melt away. So, I gave it a shot and am so glad I did. With the launch of AJS Productions, we have begun to establish ourselves as the go-to website design firm that can provide true custom builds, full social media integration and provide a complete SEO offering for larger businesses looking to increase their search engine results. To me, it’s both scary and exhilarating to get up every day and realize I am in charge of everything that happens today.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about actors and the theater?
A: There are a couple of subjects that come to mind, but at the top of the list is the amount of work that goes into a show. I think a lot of people feel like acting is just playing and not work — trust me, it takes a lot of effort to make a show or film come to life. But, if you love what you are doing, regardless of the profession, it will never feel like work.
Of course, we have a lot of fun bringing a show to life, but the hours spent working on lines, sets, costumes, lighting, marketing and selling tickets generally takes first-time actors completely off guard. Most rehearsals are in the evenings and weekends and requires a significant amount of personal sacrifice to commit to a production.
A side note regarding this subject, it takes nearly the same amount of work to put on a bad show as it does a good one — the same goes for Hollywood. Think about how many films are made each year that fail to even cover their budget. It takes more than just work to make a play good — it takes talent, focus, energy and the willingness to demand the best. In today’s climate, many are afraid to be the Simon Cowell, choosing instead to be the Paula Abdul. You cannot embrace greatness if you are too afraid to demand the best from those around you.
Let’s talk about radio. Obviously there is some improv there — is this where the acting and broadcasting worlds mesh? How do the skills required for each translate across occupations?
A: Well, it depends on the role in radio. The news folks are like Joe Friday, “Just the facts, ma’am.” They have to stay objective. They write out their news copy and read it as is. But, as a the host of the morning show, I get a little more latitude to fill in the non-news segments with subjects that hopefully entertain our audience. On Saturdays, it’s much more laid-back and I have wider range of subjects. I did learn that it’s hard, at first, to talk to an empty room. It’s difficult to keep in mind that the listeners are there, just not visible. They don’t want to hear dead air. They want to feel like what is being said, whether by me, my guests or our news staff, is being said directly to them. It’s my job to keep it rolling, keep them listening and keep them coming back for more.
So, in a way, improv in performance is similar to live radio in that there are no scripts in either. There are no “bits” or segments written out ahead of time for the air. You have to stay mentally nimble and be able to react to the ebbs and flow of the conversation. This is just as important in all forms of acting. Being able to actively listen and hear what is being said, both verbally and non-verbally, keeps me in the moment and makes it feel real and immediate — two very important elements in delivering a performance.
What is your favorite part and/or favorite play you have ever directed? Is there a part or play you dream of taking or directing?
A: I really enjoyed playing the role of Benedick in “Much Ado About Nothing,” a show I also directed. It was one of the strongest ensemble casts I ever had the pleasure of working with and had the added delight of playing across my wife for the love interest. At times, it didn’t even feel real. I had such talented people all around me and everything was firing on all cylinders. I would lose myself in the part and the production and that, to me, is what makes for magic on stage. As to what I would dream playing? The obvious answer is Hamlet, though, honestly, I’m on the outer edge, age-wise, of pulling that off. I would, however, love to play a gunslinger in a Western. I really enjoy films set in the Old West. The Western genre is uniquely American and to be able to recreate a piece of that time on stage or, better yet, on screen, would be awesome and I think I would enjoy bringing that kind of role to life.
When you were young, what was your dream job? Now?
A: If I had been a little more astute when I was younger, I would have realized acting was in my future. I would jump from one favorite career choice to another. I wanted to be an astronaut, policeman, soldier, pilot, captain of a ship, archaeologist, explorer, football star or detective. It jumped from one potential occupational choice to another, based on what movie was playing in the theater. It never occurred to me that the one profession that would give me a shot at being able to play all of those roles was as an actor. And, I will always continue to seek opportunities to be in front of the camera or onstage, but one role that surpasses all others is the one I play in real life — that of a dad. There is no more fulfilling job in the entire world than to be with my girls each and every day. They can drive me nuts one minute, make me laugh the next and then make me want to hug them so tight that I’ll never want to let them go. It’s going to be very hard when they go off to college. I know it’s the circle of life and their time is coming. Until then, I know my wife and I both are trying to maximize the time we have with them before they strike off on their own. In my mind, I’ll have plenty of time to audition when the nest is empty, though it’ll be a bittersweet tradeoff.
I’ve heard you are a Shakespeare fan. Is there a line or quote you live by? If so, what and why?
A: My favorite line, and the one I have had on my personal email closing for over 15 years is a line from “Twelfth Night” (a Shakespeare play that was modernized into the soccer film, “She’s the Man.”) The line is, “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” Of course, the irony for those who know the play is the line is meant to stir the pride of an absolute fool, but the message still rings true, nonetheless. The reason this is my favorite line has nothing to do with the word “greatness” either. I love it because of the theme of the last sentence ... “some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” Too often I see people presented with an opportunity and either through fear or lack of confidence, they choose to ignore the chance at greatness given to them. We will all fail from time to time — sometimes dramatically so, but the true failure is in choosing not to get back up and try again. The line reminds me that sometimes we have to take the chances afforded to us.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I am a shy person deep down. I have forced myself to do things and try things while my inner voice is screaming, “Are you crazy?!” But, then I go back to that quote from “Twelfth Night” and I think, seriously, what have I got to lose? So what if someone laughs at me? At least I made them laugh. Too many people today worry about what others will think so they spend an inordinate amount of energy trying to please everyone except for the one person that truly matters — themselves. I’m not saying you should go out of the way to tick people off or be disagreeable. But, don’t go to the opposite extreme either. Ultimately, our happiness starts as a personal choice. If you put the power to be happy in other people you will end up being disappointed more often than not. You have to realize, the power to be happy is within you and that’s where it should remain. That is a lesson I wish I could have learned much earlier in life.
What makes Bartow County special?
A: It may sound trite, but I love the fact that this community can still feel like a small town and yet provide so many conveniences and opportunities. I thoroughly enjoy the nature trails, scenery and kayaking down the Etowah River. Everyone should rent a canoe or a kayak and go down the river at some point in their lives. They may discover a new passion they never knew existed. My wife and I cannot get enough of the beauty and solitude afforded us in our own backyard.
A: Without a doubt, a steak — T-bone or filet, grilled medium, with a baked potato and asparagus drizzled with olive oil and garlic powder. I could eat that almost every night if I had the option. Add in a glass of red wine, preferably a cabernet sauvignon, and there isn’t really anything wrong with the world at that point. For dessert? Pecan pie always hits the spot.
In the movie or play about Alan Sanders, who would you want to play you and why?
A: Mark Wahlberg. As to why, I like his everyman persona and how he can still be a leading man without looking like he escaped an advertising campaign for Abercrombie & Fitch. It gives me hope. Also, if the opportunity were ever reversed, I’d jump at the chance to play him in a biopic — though I’d have to hit the gym a lot more often than I currently do.