published Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Eleven-year-old stage pro Josh Martin ready to play "Daddy" Warbucks

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    Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Josh Martin, a sixth-grader at St. Peter's School, and other cast members rehearse their rendition of "Annie" after school. Martin, who is also a Boy Scout and volunteers at a community kitchen, is playing the part of Oliver Warbucks.

It's a long climb from a cow pasture to the marble hallways of a billionaire's mansion, but after eight years, that's where Josh Martin has found himself.

The 11-year-old began his acting career at St. Peter's Episcopal School at age 3 when he took on the role of the cow exchanged for magical beans in "Jack and the Beanstalk."

Last year, he portrayed the Beast/Prince in the school's production of "Beauty and the Beast." Next month, he will take on his second major role as the golden-hearted billionaire Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks in a production of "Annie."

Josh said he enjoys the time he spends onstage, whether he's serving as bovine barter or benign benefactor.

"I like being in front of all those people," he said, adding that he hasn't felt nervous onstage since he played a party boy in the first act of a Chattanooga Ballet production of "The Nutcracker" at age 5.

Acting does have the occasional downside, though.

When he auditioned for "Beauty and the Beast" last year, Josh had his eye on playing the butler-turned-clock, Cogsworth, which would provide an outlet for the English accent he had been practicing all summer.

Instead, he landed the lead role, and to add insult to injury, he had to dance with -- ugh -- a girl.

CLAIM TO FAME

Josh Martin has portrayed the leading role in St. Peter's Episcopal School's production of "Beauty and the Beast" and will soon play Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks in its run of "Annie." Last year, he was one of the winners of the Prose Award in the Young Southern Writers contest.

ABOUT HIM

* Name: Josh Martin.

* Age: 11.

* School: Fifth-grader at St. Peter's Episcopal School.

* Hero: His brother, Austin, 15.

* Favorite books: "Alabama Moon" by Watt Key, the "Harry Potter," "On the Run" and "Percy Jackson" series.

UP NEXT

Josh Martin will portray Oliver Warbucks in a production of "Annie" at St. Peter's Episcopal School. The musical will be performed at 7 p.m. March 3-4.

TALENT SHOW

Do you know a child age 12 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.

"He looked like he was about to cry," his mother, Janet Martin, said when she picked him up after the roles were announced. "[Josh] said, 'I'd be just as happy doing the curtain.'"

Despite having to sacrifice a few recesses to learn the choreography, the role ended up growing on him.

"Once [the dancing] was over with, it was over with, and it was pretty fun getting to stab [the character] Gaston," Josh said, laughing.

St. Peter's director of musicals, Mark Tyson, has been working with Josh since preschool. Despite the difficulty some young actors face portraying adults, Josh has risen to the challenge as Daddy Warbucks, Tyson said.

"It's hard for a young child to play an adult role like that, but he handles it really well," he said. "I think that's amazing for his age."

In addition to his time onstage, Josh is also an avid Cub Scout (soon to be Boy Scout) and volunteers at the Community Kitchen and Alexian Brothers' Alzheimer's Unit.

Josh is also heavily involved in athletics, playing singles tennis and team soccer and basketball at St. Peter's as well as lacrosse for Middle Valley Youth Association.

Writing is another passion. Last year, Josh's story about an American soldier's experiences with British troops in World War II-era France won him the Prose Prize for the Young Southern Writers Association.

Josh's mother credits his writing prowess to his keen memory. When he was in preschool, she read him the book "Hi, Clouds" by Carol Greene, and after a couple of times through, he had memorized all 32 pages, she said.

That attention to details has helped Josh learn his lines as well as pack his stories with details. While some younger writers blanch at the prospect of a one- or two-page essay, Josh chafes at those kinds of limits.

"I couldn't get that elaborate because you can only fit the story within 1,000 words," he said of his entry to Young Southern Writers. "It's kind of hard to paint the whole picture, but I did my best to make it as long and as interesting a story as possible."

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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