Conor Driscoll graduated from Skaneateles High School Sunday, and graduates to the professional theater stage Wednesday.
Driscoll is Samuel in "Precious Nonsense," the third show in Auburn Public Theater's summer season. Running July 5-15, the show spins Gilbert and Sullivan's classic music into a new comedy.
"The idea is that nonsense, laughter, is precious," said the show's writer and director, Rachel Lampert. "I always try to find a place for it because laughter is what helps make us human."
Lampert retired Saturday as artistic director of Ithaca's Kitchen Theatre Company after 20 years in the role. It was there, in 2004, that Auburn Public Theater directors Carey Eidel and Angela Daddabbo first saw "Precious Nonsense." They've wanted to stage it at their downtown theater since its opening the following year, Lampert said. Despite her retirement, she obliged.
"When someone asks you to do your show you don't say no," she joked.
"Precious Nonsense" takes place in 1939 as America struggled out of the Great Depression, Lampert said.
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It follows four singers who travel the country singing Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas after the rest of their company has left. They then come to a snowy upstate New York town, where a manager has promised his audience the duo's "The Pirates of Penzance" — so the four have to figure out how to perform it by themselves.
Lampert said the show, which she has also brought to California, serves as a valentine to the theater.
"Theater people are like that — they're going to figure out how to do it no matter what," she said.
Driscoll's life story somewhat reflects the theme of the show, Lampert said, "running away and joining the company" to perform in his first professional show.
For the recent Skaneateles High School graduate, however, "Precious Nonsense" is also part of a grander plan. Driscoll will study business administration at Chapman University in Orange, California, in order to work in the film industry. Roles like "Precious Nonsense's" Samuel, a shy singer who finds confidence on the stage, are helping Driscoll understand actors, he said.
Driscoll began building that understanding in high school productions, he said, though the fast-paced "Precious Nonsense" has been a "completely different" experience.
"It's an amazing show, it's hilarious," he said. "We break character all the time, trying to hold it all together saying these insane lines."