At the top of Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, Ala. is a statue of the Native American princess named for the stunning waterfall. The story of the young woman who jumped into the ravine to avoid marrying a man she did not love has been told thousands of times. This summer, Brian Clowdus has brought Noccalula’s story alive with an immersive theater experience set where the events unfolded.
The Noccalula Experience features classically trained actors who not only act but sing and climb on the Gorge Trail that leads to the bottom of the falls. The audience can walk down the slope to the play’s setting or be assisted by park staff in a Gator.
Once the audience is assembled, music begins and Noccalula appears. Portrayed passionately by Atlanta actor Sarah Elaine, we quickly learn the princess is in love with Wa-ya, portrayed by Jonathan Varillas. The actors expertly portray the joy of two young people in love.
But their joy is short lived as Noccalula is told by her father, portrayed by Pedro Ka’awaloa, that she must marry Tsu-la to broker peace with another tribe. Woven throughout the story is the voice of Noccalula’s mother, who guides her daughter to her fateful decision. Irene Bedard, known as the voice of Pocahontas in the 1995 Disney movie, provides the voice of Noccalula’s mother.
Theater lovers will revel in seeing the story told on the path where the Native American legend was born. Once at the play’s first setting, the walk through the journey is an easy one for adults and children. Benches are provided in some of the areas for those who need them but the audience should be prepared to stand for about an hour during the performance.
After the play, the audience can take the rocky hike down to the gorge or return to the trailhead. Park admission is included with the theater ticket. Noccalula Falls has beautiful winding trails filled with historic cabins and beautiful foliage. My favorites are the covered bridge and old-fashioned post office. Everyone will enjoy seeing the animals in the petting zoo. And if you get tired, just catch a ride on the train that winds through the park. A miniature golf course is adjacent to the park. Adults can play for $5 and $4 for children and seniors.
Here’s what you need to know about the Noccalula Falls Experience
When: Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through July 7. Shows are performed at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Where: Noccalula Falls Park, 1500 Noccalula Road, Gadsden, Ala.
Admission: For 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. shows: $15 for adults. $10 for seniors, military and kids
For the 6 p.m. show: $25 for adults. $15 for seniors, military and kids.
You can purchase tickets and get more information here.
Other information: You do need to walk down a steep incline to get to where the play begins. A driver in a Gator is there to assist you if you don’t feel comfortable walking down. The play is performed on the trail but relatively easy to walk.