`LOCAL LEGEND' ED RAGOZZINO CREDITS GOOD TIMING.
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THEN: From the late 1950s to the early 1990s, the name "Ed Ragozzino" was synonymous with grand theater in Eugene.
He established a drama program at South Eugene High in 1957 that would draw 1,900 people for a production and - get this - would help fund the school's football program. He started Lane Community College's performing arts department. And founded the Eugene Festival of Musical Theatre, which became a driving force to the building of the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.
"Ragozzino," Register-Guard columnist Don Bishoff wrote in 1994, "became a local legend."
But a 37-year career ended that same year when the plug was pulled on the festival because crowds were down and finances in shambles.
NOW: Ragozzino, 76, still lives in Eugene with his wife, Roxy. (Six children, four grandchildren.)
He does occasional voice-over work; among his dozens of clients have been Soloflex exercise equipment, National Geographic and The History Channel.
He still has a small company that puts on dinner theater, often for nonprofit fundraisers or company events. He relaxes at a family cabin in Waldport, and plays badminton three times a week at LCC. "My doubles team beats some of the college kids. They're faster. We're smarter."
He looks back at his career in Eugene with no regrets. "My timing was great. I've been lucky."
Indeed, Ragozzino ignited high school theater in a way he says would be impossible today, with kids having so much competition for their time. `We'd have 400 kids try out for a musical. The football coach would say, `You can't cast this kid, he's my center.' Honest.'
Two of his students would go on to become Oregon governors - Neil Goldschmidt and John Kitzhaber. Kitzhaber worked lights. Goldschmidt was "Curly" in "Oklahoma!"
And that football center? That was Dave Tobey, who went on to play three years for Oregon.
`He was in `Li'l Abner,' ' Ragozzino says. "Great times."