Anyone who has attended one of the Choo Choo Kids' song-and-dance revues or a Chattanooga Theatre Centre production in which David Couter is cast is familiar with the teenager's talent. His teachers call him a legitimate triple threat: skilled in singing, dancing and acting.
Now his talent is acknowledged statewide.
David recently won Best Actor at the Tennessee State Theater Convention, held in Dickson County. More than 50 high school actors statewide competed in the prestigious competition.
What made the honor even more significant is that it concluded a "threepeat."
"David won Best Actor at three separate competitions for the same role in the same play," said his acting teacher, Magge Hudgins.
The senior at Center for Creative Arts took first place (best actor) at the district and state competitions of the Tennessee High School Speech and Drama League, then wrapped up the trio of awards with the win in Dickson County.
"As far as I've seen, it's unique," said Hudgins. "I've not seen anyone do that. It's particularly unique because it's for the same role that he was recognized."
David said the one-act performance was from "Salt & Pepper."
"It's a play about a man who hides his past and how his family is affected by it," he said.
Ironically, his teachers say, the teen's emotion is transparent when he's onstage, that his work reveals his passion for the performance.
"One of his strengths is that he is absolutely fearless," said Hudgins of her student. "He goes forward unconditionally with every role he does. Gives 100 percent at every rehearsal and every performance. Those are two things audiences really appreciate about him."
Allan Ledford, former musical theater teacher at CCA, said David's talent led to his selection when he was a sixth-grader to perform in the high school's production of "Seussical."
"I've seen loads of talented kids over the 30 years I taught. The key is that he has intelligence and absolute work ethic. He never, in the six years I taught him, walked into a rehearsal without giving 100 percent," Ledford said.
David said dance lessons when he was a second-grader eventually led him to the performing-arts magnet school.
Parents: Robert and Cheri Couter.
Acting credits: Choo Choo Kids, Chattanooga Theatre Centre MainStage and Youth Theatre.
College plans: Applying to University of Michigan.
Favorite role: Genie in "Aladdin"
People would be surprised to know: "I can blow up balloons with my nose."
Q: What interested you in performing?
A: I took tap lessons in second grade and my teacher, Lindsay Fussell, suggested I audition for the Chattanooga Theatre Centre. Allan Ledford was musical director of the show I was in, and they (Ledford and Fussell) suggested I audition for CCA.
Q: Your teacher describes you as fearless, unafraid to tackle any emotion. What do you think?
A: It's not only when I'm onstage; it's just part of my personality. People say theater allows us to put on the masks of others, but I think we remove our own facade to let other masks shine through.
You can't play an emotion; you can only play an action that is driven by an emotion.
Q: In addition to performing, have you tried writing any plays?
A: Yes, I have written two small plays and a screenplay that I and some of my friends are filming now. The screenplay is a sci-fi love story. I hope to finish editing it over winter break, and I plan to send it to some film festivals.
Q: Where do you see yourself 20 years from now?
A: I want to be involved with theater. ... I'm going to be involved with theater. I just don't know if it will be onstage or behind the scenes writing for it.