Noccalula Experience opens this weekend


By Sarrah Peters, News Editor

The cast of the Noccalula Experience, an immersive theater performance based on the local legend of Princess Noccalula, has been rehearsing for the last few weeks, and everything is in place to open the show this weekend. 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 can be purchased at the Noccalula Falls Entry Pavilion each day and at Tickets are $17.50 for children, seniors and military and $22.50 for adults.

Sarah Elaine, who will play Noccalula, was introduced as the lead early this year. Locals got the chance to meet the rest of the cast at a meet and greet at Noccalula Falls on Monday, May 27.

Jonathan Varillas will play Wa-ya, Princess Noccalula’s childhood friend and the man that she wishes to marry.

Philip Lopez will portray Tsu-la, a war-chief from a neighboring village. As a con-dition of peace between the two tribes, he demands to marry Princess Noccalula.

“My character is not exactly well-liked,” said Lopez.

  Pedro Ka’awaloa will play Noccalula’s father. Ka’awaloa said that it is a challenging role to portray, because he is torn between doing what is right for his daughter and doing what is right for his people. He is also still coming to terms with losing his wife to the war.

Irene Bedard, who was the voice of Pocahontas, will be the Voice of Noccalula’s mother.

Director and producer Brian Clowdus, a Gadsden native who now is based in Atlanta, said that a lot of behind the scenes work has taken place as well.

“We’ve been working on costumes and the script is changing daily as we rehearse,” said Clowdus. “We’ve got original music and have been figuring out how to utiliza the space.”

The Noccalula Experience will be performing in the gorge, with the audience traveling along the path while the story plays out around them. Clowdus said that the cast worked with a safety coordinator to figure out where the cast could perform, which involves climbing and entering the water.

It was important to Clowdus to keep one element of the Princess Noccalula legend intact – its ambiguous ending. There has never been a definite answer as to whether Noccalula killed herself bey jumping off the falls or if she faked her death to escape with her true love. This show will not give decide what the answer is.

“I wanted to keep it a legend,” said Clowdus. “If you show everything, you lose some of that wonder.”

“Nobody knows what happened,” said Varillas. “It’s nice that the story kept that.”

While the rehearsal and show are in progress, cast members have been staying in Gadsden. Elaine said that the cast has been enjoying being able to see the area. The cast is also enjoying Noccalula Falls Park.

“The park is spectacular,” said Elaine. “It’s nice being able to connect with nature.”

Varillas, who travels with his wife in an RV full time, said that the campground was really convenient and a great place to stay.

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