For Evan Roush, every moment is an opportunity to sharpen his storytelling skills.
In class, he writes a poem. That satisfies his craving for an hour or so.
He carries a notebook around to jot down notes and ideas for stories. As he watches people and talks to his friends, he is remembering facial expressions and the way people say things and why. He incorporates it all into his dialogue.
For Roush, writing is life.
“A day that goes by without writing is not a day I want to live,” he said.
Recently, Roush, who graduated from Winter Park High School this year, was recognized for his hard work and passion. His one-act play “Happiness For You and Everyone You Know” was chosen as the Critic’s Choice at the Florida State Thespian Festival.
The play, which delves into the subconscious of a man wrestling with the idea of the ending of his marriage as he lies on a therapist’s couch, is more sophisticated than most high school originals, said Roush’s WPHS drama teacher, Robert Dutton.
“He writes like somebody wiser than others his age,” Dutton said. “He exists on that intellectual plane as a writer.”
“He definitely made his own as the best writer in the department,” said Jiana Estes, Evan’s best friend and drama student at Winter Park High.
But it might not be fair to others his age — Roush has had almost his whole life to work on his writing skills. As a 2-year-old, he would rather look away and listen to the music of “Pocahontas,” while his mother described each scene, than watch the movie. At 4, he decided he was going to become a writer, and at 6, he was emailing his favorite author about how to do it. By the third grade, he was writing plays for the other kids in his neighborhood to perform.
“Everybody wanted to be in Evan’s plays,” mother Pamela Roush said.
Although he’s had a passion for words seemingly forever, the discipline and dedication required for his current success didn’t kick in until high school. Now he writes for hours a day, three “on a slow day,” he said.
“Happiness” was written in one night, from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., after a strike of inspiration — his own life. Roush is headed to California in the fall to attend Pasadena City College with the hopes of transferring to the University of California, Los Angeles for film school.
That change sparked a week of fear; he almost decided he couldn’t go. “Happiness” became an outlet for that fear, anxiety and self-discovery. The main character, Tom Baugh, like Roush, was learning to understand how fluid life is and how sometimes moving on is the best action to take. Roush hopes his audience can relate.
“To accept the confusion of life and go with it,” he said.
“The show is meant to say something about all of us,” Dutton said. “It’s a universal message we can all relate to … you don’t get that with 18-year-olds.”
People who know Roush see his slightly offbeat, quirky personality infused into his writing. For Roush, who emulates the unique styles of Woody Allen and Charlie Kaufman, that’s a compliment. That’s how the world is, he said.
“Moments in life are all a little bit off.”
Music also influences his individual approach to writing. His broad taste ranges from Tom Waits to Iggy Pop and composer Jon Brion. Music helps shape his plays, and the mood is created from the way it makes him feel. No music equals no story.
“I can’t write without music,” he said.
It also seems he wouldn’t be able to write without also being able to share it with others. When he wrote “Happiness,” he called his friend Estes at 7 a.m. on a Sunday as he sent a copy to her email. He calls her when he writes a new joke or poem and can’t keep new story ideas to himself. He’s always working on something, and it’s endearing to watch his excitement. His hands get going and something special happens when he talks about writing.
“I like hearing him talk about his ideas,” his dad, Mark Roush, said. “He kind of gets that little twinkle in his eye; he really comes to life.”
For more information about the Florida State Thespian Festival, visit www.flthespian.com