What is the mission of the Cayuga Museum? Director Eileen McHugh told The Citizen (Jan. 20, 2012): “Theodore Case himself chose the Cayuga Museum as the keeper of his legacy.” Indeed, Case gifted the entire Willard estate with a humble request that the museum uphold the legacy of Movietone. Case’s carriage house is part of this estate.
According to the Oct. 1, 2017, front-page story of The Citizen, Ms. McHugh and the museum board changed the name of the Case carriage house theater from Theater Mack to The Cayuga Museum Carriage House Theater. I, for one, object. The names of two men intrinsically connected to the building are missing from this title: Peter Mack and Theodore W. Case.
Peter Mack’s vision and his creative and generous contributions to the Case carriage house have been invaluable to our community! Thousands have enjoyed a plethora of outstanding functions and performances in this gathering gem. Furthermore, Peter continued to use his musical talents to draw even more people to Auburn, at his cost. Peter Mack’s pervasive support for the museum he has cherished since childhood deserves our utmost praise and his name should continue in the theater’s title.
Theodore W. Case is unquestionably Auburn’s most accomplished son. But who knows? Most visitors to the Case carriage house theater do not realize the hallowed ground on which they walk. They have no idea that Auburn, New York, is the official birthplace of talking movies and that the very first sound-on-film studio on the planet lies directly above the theater’s stage. Imagine, in this historic building Case experimented with and perfected the sound technology that ultimately revolutionized the civilized world! His name absolutely should appear in the theater’s title.
Keeping Theodore W. Case’s legacy alive is Ms. McHugh’s primary obligation. Including Case’s name in the theater title would show a good-faith effort. Omitting his name, well, raises eyebrows to a hidden agenda.
Hold the museum accountable to their job. Change the theater title to one that shows gratitude to Peter Mack and hometown honor to Theodore W. Case. Tell Ms. McHugh and the Cayuga Museum board members to rename the theater: Theater Mack at the Case Carriage House.
Colella is co-author of "Now We're Talking: The Story of Theodore W. Case and Sound-on-Film."