By Sarrah Peters/News Editor
On Saturday, January 26, the newly renovated Kiwanis Pavilion at Noccalula Falls hosted auditions for local actors to join the cast of The Noccalula Experience.
“We’ve really been surprised by how many Native Americans are coming out from the surrounding community to audition,” said production director and producer Brian Clowdus. “We’re super ex-cited about that.”
Clowdus said that preparations for the production are going well and that the script is progressing nicely. A Native American will be composing for the production. Plans for prepping the site of The Noccalula Experience will be underway soon.
“We are going to zone in on what areas of the gorge we are actually using for the performance and making sure that they’re safe for both the actors and the audience,” said Clowdus. “Since this is so immersive in nature and the audience is on their feet the whole time, we of course want this to be an adventure, but we want it to be safe and fun. That way people are focused on the actual story.”
The local auditions also served as a way to introduce lead actor Sarah Elaine, who will play Princess Noccalula in the production.
“Our goal is to cast as many local actors, as well,” said Clowdus. “We also in the audition posting said that you need no previous acting prior to this, so we’re interested in seeing what happens. It’ll be a balance of locals and others. We want the caliber of talent to reflect Sarah as the lead.”
City of Gadsden Parks and Recreation Director Jen Weathington was hopeful that they would find some local talent.
“We’ve got some very talented people in our area,” said Weathington. “I think this is a prime opportunity for our locals to get some great experience with trained professionals. We want to help grow resumes, so they can go around the world, and do what Brian did and come back!”
“It’s been so long since he’s done some-thing here in our home, so I’m really excited,” said Clowdus’s mother Ritzi McLendon. “I’m so proud of him, and he’s amazing. He’s fixing to produce something in this town that I think is going to blow people’s socks off.”
Clowdus said that he has not done a performance in Gadsden since graduating college.
After the auditions, Clowdus said that the production would know what local actors would be added to the cast, and then the rest of the casting decisions could be made
“It’s going to be a relatively small cast,” said Clowdus.
In addition to Princess Noccalula, the cast will include her two lovers, her father, and her mother, who may be represented physically or just as a spirit.
Elaine said that she was impressed by her first visit to the falls.
“I’m obsessed with nature already, and this is so insanely beautiful,” said Elaine. “I’m so lucky to get to do this [production] here.”
Elaine is an Atlanta-based actress with a Native American background.
“My family was born on the Eastern band of the Cherokee tribe,” said Elaine. “I didn’t grow up on the reservation, but I grew up with my grandparents’ influences and practices and rituals and religion. I grew up with a heavy culturally Native American background.”
Elaine had heard the legend of Princess Noccalula through friends from Gadsden but said that she certainly knows it more in-depth now.
“Once I looked up the full story, I was enthralled,” said Elaine.
Elaine said that she has been acting almost her whole life and hopes to continue as long as possible.
“I did my first show in second grade, but I guess that doesn’t really count,” said Elaine. “I went to college for theater, then I did an apprenticeship in Atlanta, so I guess I’ve been acting almost my entire life. And I’m super passionate about it. It’s what makes me truly happy, so I want to continue acting for as long as I can.”
Weathington said that the response has been amazing, with people already contacting the Gadsden Parks and Recreation Department for tickets for the show. The show will be held from May 31 to June 7 on Friday through Sunday at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets are available at www.noccalulafallspark.com.