GRIC Sponsors the Herberger Theater’s New Musical: Islander

Velia Moncada

Gila River Indian News


Islander: A New Musical debuted on Jan. 13 at the Herberger Theater thanks in large part to the title sponsor, the Gila River Indian Community. The mystical play, about a girl on a sparsely populated island who encounters a mysterious stranger, covers societal, environmental and economic issues as well as loneliness, loss and the need for human connection.


Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis expressed, “I believe this is an excellent opportunity for the Community to make an impact and one where the Community will mutually benefit from the relationship.”


The production won Best New Musical at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a major international arts showcase. In it, two female actors play 26 roles on a minimalist set consisting of a giant white fiberglass bowl. The contemporary Scottish folk/pop score uses live looping technology that creates echoing, reverberating sound.


“It’s a very unique story, yet a story we can relate to in a lot of different ways,” said Mark Mettes, President and CEO at Herberger Theater Center. “This partnership really helps us to bring audiences in Arizona to the Herberger Theater and get a first look at this amazing show.”


Mettes said the layered story of Islander is relevant to the theater’s mission and goals of connecting with the Community. He said he is delighted that having GRIC as a sponsor helps the Herberger Theater establish itself as a theater for all, and he looks forward to continuing the partnership.


“We are moving in this direction to be able to reflect values that are common to all of us as human beings,” said Mettes, thanking GRIC for the sponsorship.


In Islander, myth and reality collide, covering topics of climate change, community displacement, divesting from the land, and connection with and disconnection from technology, people and animals, while also exploring motherhood and girlhood.


“The themes sort of touch lightly but in ways that spark things for a person individually,” said Doreen Sayegh, producer and general manager with Pemberley Productions.


The performance of Islander has captivated audiences intellectually, artistically and emotionally, she said. She added she was curious how the people of Phoenix would connect to the whale scenario in the story because the city of Phoenix is the first in the Islander’s tour without a huge body of water.


“It feels really special to us to have this kind of partnership, so first, a big thank you [to the Community] for being a part of it in this way, and then, having a real open invitation to have an open dialog about it,” said Sayegh as she invited the Community to see the performance of Islander


For tickets to the show, which runs through Jan. 28, visit or visit the box office. It runs 90 minutes and includes light stage haze and brief moments of flashing lights.