(Ron Pugh | Photo courtesy of Sunriver Stars Community Theatre)
Ron has been a “theatre junkie” since going to high school in Lakeview, Oregon, where he grew up. In school, he tried sports — that didn’t work. He tried band — that didn’t work. He tried being cool — he says that DEFINITELY didn’t work! Then he auditioned for a play. That’s where he found his niche. He realized he could finally be ALL those other personas, and loved it!
“I love acting,” Ron explained. “Unlike real life, you get to keep practicing over and over, until you get it right! Or at least, until you get it the way you want it.”
Ron continued his love of theatre in college, when he attended Southern Oregon College in Ashland (now Southern Oregon University). That’s where he became more involved in the technical aspects of theatre production. One of his classes included the opportunity to volunteer at The Shakespeare Theatre, located in Ashland.
After graduating from college with a degree in Criminal Justice, Ron launched a 39-year career with the U.S. Forest Service as a criminal investigator. “That job consumed most of my time,” Ron said, but he still found time for theatre. From 1986 to 1991, Ron was very active at then Community Theater of the Cascades, now Cascade Theatrical Company (CTC). He was onstage in five plays there, and served off-stage (set construction, light/sound booth, props, etc.) for dozens of others. He also served as an assistant director and on their Board of Governors for four years.
One of Ron’s favorite theatre experiences was playing the role of, Wally, in CTC’s production of Angry Housewives, in 1988. Wally’s character was a fairly simple minded, clumsy nerd, who’s only claim to fame was catching a four-foot fish in a derby that netted him a $1,000,000. In that play, Wally sings and tap dances. Ron does neither. “That was by far my biggest theatrical challenge,” Ron added. “Fortunately, it was a comedy and I was supposed to make a fool of myself. I think maybe I was type cast. At the cast party, after we closed, the cast collectively presented me with a pair of dancing shoes. Both were for the left foot.”
Ron served 20 of that 39-year career in Central Oregon. He oversaw the Central Oregon Arson Task Force from 1987 until he moved in 2003. “One of my proudest career accomplishments is knowing that there are a lot of trees still standing out there, that we saved from the hands of arsonists,” said Ron. “I chose my career with the Forest Service because I absolutely love the outdoors and all it has to offer.”
Ron left Central Oregon in 2003 and moved to the Portland area, where he was promoted into a management position. He served as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the Forest Service’s Oregon and Washington Region. In that capacity, he supervised eight special agents scattered around those two states.
In 2006, Ron transferred to Vallejo, California, where he served as Special Agent in Charge, for California, Hawaii and Guam. That position supervised nearly 200 law enforcement officers and special agents in California. “Until I worked there, I didn’t realize that 18 percent of California is National Forest land.” Ron said the two years he worked there were like living in a blizzard, hurricane, a forest fire and earthquake, all at the same time. “Actually, all those things did occur while I was there,” he added. “Best job of my career.”
Ron explains that he used his theatre experience as a form of personal therapy. As a federal agent, his job was often very serious and filled with many of the negative aspects of people and life. “When I’m on stage, everything is OK, and the good guy always wins.”
Ron retired from the Forest Service in 2009. He then fulfilled a lifelong dream of building his own house on a river. He now lives with his two little dogs, in that house on the Little Deschutes River, about six miles south of Sunriver.
Once that home was built, Ron started a part time private investigator business, and also went back to one of his first true loves — theatre. He got involved with a fairly new theatre group, at the time, Sunriver Stars Community Theater.
Ron recalls going to his first audition for Stars in 2012. That’s where he met the matriarch and diva of the Sunriver Stars, Victoria Kristy. Ron was cast as Jonathan, in the upcoming show of Arsenic and Old Lace. That audition and meeting formed a bond between the two that continues today. “Without Victoria, there would be no Sunriver Stars,” Ron says. “Southern Deschutes County is a wonderful place to live, and because of Victoria and the Stars, it’s even better.”
Since then, Ron has performed onstage in several plays. Ron misses being onstage, and hopes to get back at it, when theatre returns. He has so many amazing experiences with plays, it’s difficult to say just which his favorites are. “I know it will sound like a cliché, but my fondest memories are the friendships I’ve formed,” Ron explained. “More like family, actually.”
Ron has also directed three plays for Stars. He has found directing to be a lot more work than he anticipated — and he loves the challenge. Watching actors grow from the first night of rehearsal, to the final curtain, is an amazing experience. Especially for new actors. “When I see one of them “get the bug for the first time, and glow with delight,” it just doesn’t get any better than that,” Ron describes.
He also served as vice president of the Board of Directors for about three years. Ron hopes to continue both onstage, and off, in the future.
In his spare time, Ron now enjoys going to church at The DOOR, spending time at home with his two little dogs, whitewater rafting, snowmobiling, serving as the neighborhood litter patrol guy, being Santa at the Sunriver ACE Camp Abbot Hardware store each Christmas season and hanging out with his close friends at The Mountain Jug. He also recently started helping a local band. They all met at the Mt. Jug (hence, they call themselves, The JUGULARS). Last summer was their first time performing in public. It went very well and they are anxious to get back at it this spring/summer. (For bookings, call 541-480-7483)
When asked which of his life experiences was his favorite — his career as a federal agent, his private investigator business, theatre, managing a band, Santa or retirement — Ron answers, “Ho ho ho!”