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LOHS teen honored with national playwright award

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: DAVID KINDER - Actors, from left, Brian Demar Jones, Gerrin Mitchell, Steve Rathje and Joshua Stenseth rehearse for the production Fight Call. Rathje also wrote the play, produced last year in Portland.  Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote: “Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?”

Lake Oswego High School junior Steve Rathje could be the embodiment of those words. Rathje shows off his moves onstage, pours his passion into poetic recitation — and writes playful, profound words that are spotlighted in school and community productions. The 18-year-old’s dances with the pen are now garnering national acclaim.

Rathje’s play, “The Crib,” was one of four winners out of 73 entrants in the national Thespian Playworks competition. Awardees will head to a conference this June in Nebraska, working with professionals to polish their plays, which the winners will then present. Participants’ literary works will be considered for publication in the Educational Theatre Association’s Dramatics magazine, and the teen playwrights have a shot at a publishing deal with Samuel French Inc.by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: DAVID KINDER - As a freshman, Steve Rathje played the Cat in the Hat in Seussical the Musical.

Rathje, a straight-A student, is one of 25 finalists out of the 694 entrants in the Young Playwrights Inc. National Playwriting Competition. If he is named one of the top eight, he will head to New York for an all-expenses trip in January 2014 where “The Crib” would be presented as an off-Broadway production.

“It’s difficult to explain what it’s about,” Rathje said. “It’s a very surrealist and absurdist play. It’s a lot of shifting in and out of reality and time. There are funny elements to it, but I believe dreamlike is a better way to characterize it.”

The local wordsmith also pocketed a Gold Key in the nationwide Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition and was a semifinalist in the Connecticut-based Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s Young Playwrights Festival.

Not content to express his talent on the page, Rathje also steps onstage, performing as the Cat in the Hat in “Seussical the Musical” in his freshman year. In his sophomore year, he played Arthur, a major role, in the Portland-based Northwest Classical Theater Company’s presentation of William Shakespeare’s “King John.”

“It was a really good production and a really great experience,” Rathje said.

Rathje also stepped into the shoes of gangster Nicely-Nicely in Lake Oswego High’s rendition of “Guys and Dolls.”

The young man crafted a musical called “Fight Call,” which debuted at Fertile Ground this year in Portland. He penned accompanying lyrics with his older brother, Billy, a sophomore at the University of Puget Sound. Billy Rathje also composed the music.

Steve Rathje was one of nine high schoolers who competed in the state Poetry Out Loud competition in March. Also a member of the Young Professionals program at Oregon Children’s Theatre, he represented his school at the poetry recitation contest for the second year in a row. Oregon Arts Commission Poetry Out Loud Coordinator Deb Vaughn said his recitation skills are “very advanced.”

“He has a confidence and stage presence that immediately demand your attention,” Vaughn said.

Spending his whole life in Lake Oswego, Rathje said he is a mostly self-taught scriptwriter, but he did soak in some training during a summer play-writing class with local playwright Matt Zrebski.

The burgeoning writer has more than a year to choose a college, but he already is considering one career, artistic director for a theater company.

“I love the theater,” Rathje said.

His mother, Karen Rathje, said he always has been passionate about the arts and possessed an intuitive grasp of “the irony, humor and complexity of the human condition.”

“Steve is a very creative, bright young man who has a lot of tenacity in areas that interest him,” she said.



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