After a long and circuitous route, Fredrick Alanzo is returning to North Texas this Friday for a local premiere of his film Signed, Sealed & Delivered. Currently living in Houston, the Fort Worth native conceived the work as a stage play more than a decade ago, but only now is it reaching the big screen, at AMC Parks Mall in Arlington.
Now 44, Alanzo was attending O.D. Wyatt High School when he started acting in theater productions. “I grew up in a domestic violence-type home,” he said. “There were gangs in my neighborhood. Theater gave me freedom. I could become someone I wasn’t.”
He credits his drama teacher, Evelyn Forte, with being one of the people who rescued him from a life on the streets. Forte took him to an audition that won him a theater scholarship to Prairie View A&M University, where he transitioned into directing after developing a case of stage fright.
Seeking a fallback plan, Alanzo double-majored in theater and criminal justice at Prairie View. After school, he worked investigating white-collar crime for a Houston computer company. The money was good, but show business and religion called to him: “I devoted my life to Christ in my early 20s, and I wanted to use my gift to elevate the kingdom of God,” he said.
He was inspired to write Signed, Sealed & Delivered after hearing the Stevie Wonder song by the same name in 2001. The play is about a drug kingpin who finds God and tries to keep to his spiritual path after his release following 10 years in prison. He launched Eternal Life Entertainment to produce his play as well as put out music. That same year, he directed Demetrius Duffy’s play When Daddy Got Saved at Will Rogers Memorial Center to large crowds, so he felt confident mounting his own work on the stage. Disappointingly, a Shreveport production of Signed, Sealed & Delivered in 2002 sold fewer than 40 tickets –– and 72 people turned out for the show at his high school.
“I did question my faith for a minute,” he said. “I believed that God had given [the play] to me to put it out there. It kinda hurt me and made me angry.”
Only slightly deterred, however, he came back and put on the play at Fort Worth’s Scott Theater in 2007 to much larger audiences, thanks to some local pastors who promoted the show.
Alanzo put show business aside to manage projects for a box-manufacturing company, but he lost that job in 2012, around the time that his father died. “It seemed like the Lord was telling me to get back to work,” he said.
A friend who owned camera equipment suggested turning his play into a movie, and other friends agreed to fund the $5,000 budget. He found new challenges in making his work into a film. “On stage, a guy can be coming from the store,” he said. “In film, you have to show the store. My biggest task was imagining those locations.”
He held the premiere three weeks ago at Houston’s AMC Willowbrook theater, where more than 1,000 people attended. “It was surreal to me,” he remembered. “People in the lobby thought something had happened because the whole theater was cheering” at the ending.
Now Alanzo is working on a second film, a thriller called Crossover, as well as a children’s theater production entitled Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. In the meantime, he’s savoring the support that he has received for Signed, Sealed & Delivered. “I couldn’t have done this without my friends, my mom, and my wife,” he said. “It has been a blessing.”