As an actor, it might be hard to imagine topping playing the son of God. Despite making his stage debut at 4 months old portraying the infant Jesus in a Christmas play, Mason Carter, 9, said his favorite role was more down to earth, if more involved, than lying in a manger.
"I liked playing Fudge, the little brother from 'Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,'" Mason said. "It was a little scary."
Mason wasn't cast as the destructive younger brother in the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's Youth Theatre's 2008 stage production of Judy Blume's children's book, but when lead actor Max Montague became sick, Mason's mother, Youth Theatre director Maria Chattin-Carter, said she immediately looked to him to fill in.
Although he never rehearsed for the performance, Mason took the stage after watching a couple of performances, Chattin-Carter said.
"He was the only one I knew could pick it up and just do it," she said. "On stage, it's like he blocks everything else out. He was very focused on stage and living in the moment."
In addition to his work on the stage at the Theatre Centre, Mason has also started exploring other artistic mediums. He plays clarinet in his school band at Tennessee Temple Academy, said he loves to draw and is in his second year singing with the Chattanooga Boys Choir.
Last year, Mason and his sister, Addison, 6, appeared with their mother in a TV commercial for Chattanooga Room in the Inn, a local transitional shelter. Despite spending hours in the summer heat waiting for cameras and lights to be repositioned, Mason demonstrated patience and focus beyond the norm for most child actors, said shelter development coordinator Victoria Gaylan, who directed the commercial.
"There's a certain type of child who can hang for that number of hours and ... stay focused," she said. "It's that child who really wants the craft. If I had something else going on that I needed kids for, they would be one of the first ones I called."
Off stage, Mason is a quiet child, but when he takes on a role, he comes alive, his mother said.
Mason said it's easy to ignore the faces looking at him when he's on stage, and if there's clapping at the end, so much the better.
"I like to pretend I'm a different person," he said, smiling.
* Name: Mason Carter.
* Age: 9.
* School: Fourth-grader at Tennessee Temple Academy.
* Favorite subject: Art.
* Least favorite subject: Math.
Mason will be performing for the second time in the Chattanooga Boys Choir's annual Singing Christmas Tree on Dec. 4. He also will be auditioning for the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's Youth Theatre production of "A Year With Frog and Toad," to take place next spring.
Do you know a child 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 will appear 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 423-757-6205.