‘Matilda’ spotlights teen directors, young cast

Desert Stages Theater’s “Matilda” includes, from left, Anna Scales, 11, as Matilda; Alaina Lish, 16, as “Miss Honey; Ian Iangray, 17, as Agatha Trunchbull; directors Noah Suctapo and Lexi Archer and musical director Rachel Self. (David Minton/Progress Staff Photographer)

Desert Stages Theater opened its production of “Matilda” Sept. 23. highlighting the talent of 17-year-old directors Noah Sucato and Lexi Archer and 32 cast members ages 7-17. 

Noah and Lexi both acted in productions with Desert Stages Theatre, and then decided that they wanted to give directing a shot and had their eyes set on directing one show in particular: Matilda. 

“Around April, we were told that the season announcement was coming soon and I had wanted to be a director,” Noah said. “I reached out to Ellen (Versen) and asked if it was a possibility and I also talked to my girlfriend, Lexi, about it and we both wanted to direct Matilda.” 

“Being an actor my whole life, I’ve had so many amazing directors before and I love that when I am acting, I see visions of what something could be and that’s very much what directing is,” he added.

As excited as Noah and Lexi were to direct, they realized that there would be some bumps in the road in their new roles. 

For example, some of the cast Lexi is directing are her age.

“One of the things I was kind of anticipating was, as a youth director, kids being a little bit younger than me and not seeing kids showing up the same age as me,” Lexi said. “I was (initially) scared that I wasn’t going to be respected.” 

The two were also surprised to see how much work went into production before the characters were even cast. 

“A lot of the work came before auditions,” Lexi said. “We were trying to map out everything and we began developing little bits to help make the show our own.

“'Matilda,’ especially this season, has been performed a lot, but I feel like we were able to grab moments and have it be very individual. There are a lot of unique things that you won’t see from a Matilda production on Broadway at your church or anywhere else.”

Anna Scales, 11, in the role of the courageous and clever brainiac Matilda; Alaina Lish, 16, plays shy and introverted Miss Honey and Ian Gray, 17, is the villainous former Olympic thrower and now disgruntled school principal Agatha Trunchbull. 

“What I have loved most about being a director is collaborating with the actors that we have and seeing what they think because I feel like when I was acting, one of my favorite things from directors was when they talked to me and we collaborated on a vision that everyone understood,” Noah said. 

This became especially important for the role of Agatha Trunchbull as Ian opted to give the traditionally masculine character a more feminine touch. 

“I love Trunchbull and I think (the role) can be played in many different ways,” Ian said. “I do a more feminine interpretation of the role in that I make it less than like the school gym coach, or like a principal because that’s how I view the character. I view her as more feminine and, in her teachings, though, she’s still built and still strong.” 

Alaina said her role forced her to step outside of her comfort zone and play a character that is almost the opposite of her outgoing personality. 

“I kind of always play the more love interest type, so it was it was a different experience and she’s taught me a lot,” Alaina said. “(There’s) no springs you can put on Miss Honey because she’s super shy and I think that’s different from the person that I am.” 

Anna said, “I’ve always wanted to do a show at Disney stages and when I saw ‘Matilda.’ I was super excited because Matilda is my dream role. I love playing characters who are brave and I was excited to play this type of character where I can just be very mischievous.”

Lexi said she felt a strong camaraderie among the cast, crew and directors.

“I felt like we had a lot of support and a lot of respect throughout the process,” Lexi said. “The most difficult thing I think was balancing the work and fun with the kids.”

Because of this, the cast is excited to reach as many audience members as possible before the shows closing date next Sunday, Oct. 9. 

“I want them to take away how inspiring it is that these kids are working so hard and putting themselves out here since some of them are doing something they’ve never done before and just having fun with it,” Lexi said. 

“I want them to take away that you should never be scared of who you are because you should always strive to be the best as you can be,” Alaina added.

If You Go:

What: Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical Jr. 

When: Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. 

Where: Desert Stages Theatre, 7014 E. Camelback Road,

Suite 0586 Scottsdale.

Cost: $25

Info: desertstages.org

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