With its operations launching about two weeks ago, AJS is offering acting lessons and coaching for those age 8 to adults. The classes are led by the business' owner, Alan J. Sanders, a past president of the local Pumphouse Players theater group, who has appeared in seven motion pictures and more than 30 staged productions.
"This is coming from my background as not only an actor but certainly as a director, so many people don't get a chance to figure out what they need to work on as an actor until they get in a show," Sanders said. "Unfortunately if they don't get in a show, they can't work on their craft. So sometimes people just audition and audition and they lose their heart because they don't get cast or they don't get the big part.
"So I wanted to create something different. Rather than your typical class that has a beginning, middle and end, I wanted to create more of a workshop, where we work on acting techniques. We work on things they can be working on at home but then also a big part of it is practice, giving you a scene. And then they have to learn the scene and then kind of direct it -- tell them what worked, what didn't, get feedback from the rest of the class. So they have to get used to being in front of an audience as well as learning their lines, as well as continuing to build their craft."
Describing the instruction's atmosphere as an ongoing workshop, Sanders said the classes are a "playground for actors to play and practice and get better." While four students currently are enrolled in the Basics of Acting class for ages 12 to 16 that meets on Tuesday evenings, additional individuals can join the instruction at any point.
"As soon as I have enough people that are really starting to show promise, I'll start the advanced classes ... A lot of people have asked me what's the difference? And it's more of the intensity," Sanders said. "We do the same kind of exercises. We talk [about] the same concepts but the advanced classes are really for people who have done a lot of theater or film.
"They've gotten a lot of roles and so now it's a matter of we can go faster and be a little bit more abrupt, where somebody who might be a younger actor or somebody who's a more novice actor, you don't want to break their spirit by telling them, 'OK, that was terrible.' You've got to work with them and try to develop that craft. So the basics [class] is more about going a little slower and being a little more of a mentor rather than being maybe a director, like in the advanced class."
In the future, Sanders plans to expand his offerings, with summer camps for youth and classes possibly focusing on the business aspect of acting, improvisation and Shakespeare.
"I really would love to get all the classes not only filled up but to have to add more, simply because I know how many kids are involved in theater that don't get the practical hands-on," he said. "I'm not a teacher. I'm not going to take them through a textbook.
"I'm going to take them through what I've learned over 40 stage shows and seven films and being involved in about a dozen short movies. I'm going to [show] them ... 'This is what directors look for. This is what happens on a set. This is what people like, what they don't like.' So I'm giving them real world versus book experience."
Held at Great Southern Music, 292 Nelson St. in Cartersville, the AJS' instruction schedule includes Tuesday -- Basics of Acting ages 8 to 11, 4 to 5 p.m.; Basics of Acting 12 to 16, 5:30 to 7 p.m.; Basics of Acting 17 and older, 7:30 to 9 p.m.; Wednesday -- Advanced Actors Workshop 8 to 11, 4 to 5 p.m.; Advanced Actors Workshop 12 to 16, 5:30 to 7 p.m.; Thursday -- Advanced Actors Workshop 17 and older, 6 to 7:30 p.m.; and Friday -- Actor's Orientation 8 to 11, 4 to 5 p.m.; Actor's Orientation 12 to 16, 5 to 6 p.m.; and Actor's Orientation 17 and older, 6 to 7 p.m. One-on-one coaching sessions also are available.
The classes range in cost from $35 to $60. For more information, visit AJS Productions' Facebook page or contact Sanders at 678-427-1763 or AJSProds@gmail.com.
While AJS Productions' offerings are under way, The Grand Theatre is registering youth for its acting lessons. Beginning Jan. 11, the Cartersville venue will present two six-week courses on Tuesdays -- Kids Onstage for second- through fifth-graders and Teen Comedy Classes for grades six to 12.
"It has been very popular," said Terri Cox, program coordinator for The Grand Theatre. "I believe this is the fifth year that we've done it. It's a time of year when kids are looking for something to do.
"This is a way for them to work on their acting skills when they're not in the middle of doing a play and they can really focus on learning and the nuts and bolts of how things really work. So when they do get involved in a play they'll be better actors and just have a better grasp of what's going on."
Kids Onstage will be held on Tuesdays from 4 to 5:15 p.m. and will cost $60. Tuition for the Teen Comedy Class, which will convene on Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m., will be $90 for each student. The classes will be limited in size, featuring a total of 20 and 15 students for the elementary and teen offerings, respectively.
"For the children, the elementary-age [students], they will be working on some of the basic things like learning terms," Cox said. "When people talk in theater lingo, what are they talking about? What does the director mean when they say, 'Walk down stage' or 'cross left' or things like that? They'll learn how to present themselves as far as movement on the stage and how to project their voice and become a character, things like that.
"There's always some who have had no experience at all and this helps them gain confidence. So it will give them the confidence to try out for their very first play or if they've been in one before, it helps them hone their skills and have better stage presence. ... The teen class, we've done it a few different ways before but this year we're going to be focusing on comedy. They'll be doing some improvisations and some little skits that focus on comedy. I think that's what a lot of the teens are interested in right now. So we're going to put a little bit more focus on that side of it this time."
To register for either class, call 770-386-7343 or stop by The Grand Theatre Ticket Office, 7. N. Wall St., Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.