Liars’ League Takes Portland by Storm

With some local and international support, Stumptown’s latest storytelling event—with a twist—is already standing room only.

By Jason Buehrer September 21, 2016

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Liars' League actors keep the audience spellbound. 

Image: Liars' League

A lone voice speaks directly to you over stifled coughs and the hush of an engaged audience. For frequent listeners of storytelling events (and podcasts) like The Moth, or to some of our city’s home-grown storytelling events such as BackFence PDX, this may seem familiar to you. But there’s something different: Liars' League PDX—Portland’s newest storytelling event, which doubles as a podcast—traffics in fiction, and the people who peddle it onstage are professional actors.  

“The actors really have fun taking something that is completely new,” says Pamela Fleishman, who now serves as Liars’ League PDX’s events and casting coordinator. “And the writers—I think for them to see a character that has been in their head come life is really fascinating.”

Liars’ League began in 2007 in London, the brainchild of Kate Darby and Andrew Lloyd-Jones. Darby wanted a setting where writers—who may not be public speakers—could hear their work professionally read. Over the nine subsequent years, London's Liars’ League has had shows broadcast on the BBC, and opened chapters in NYC in 2012 and Hong Kong in 2013.

Liar’s League PDX, which was founded by Pamela Fleishman and Jennifer Springsteen in 2015, started after Springsteen stumbled across the New York Liars' League website while looking for a place to submit her own work. It seemed like a perfect fit for Portland. The two reached out to Andrew Lloyd Jones to ask for permission to start their own. Jones, who was already considering Portland as a possible place to expand because of the strong literary and theater scene, was receptive.

The first Liars' League PDX event, which took place at the Studio at Literary Arts in April this year, was packed. Submissions—and the actors required to read them—are now open for Liars' League's 2017 season. So far, the local branch has attracted performers including Clara Hillier, Aundre Barnes, Kim Bogus, Deanna Wells, and James Dixon reading stories by Lois Rosen, Kim Stafford, Cassandra Longest, Liam Lund, and London’s Liam Hogan (one of the original Liars’ League hosts). Upcoming themes will include Natives & Transplants, Willpower & Shame, and Fire & Quakes. The appeal is more than just local, too. While the shows are skewed toward Northwest writers, Liars’ League PDX has received submissions from as far away as Australia and London. 

Next up, though, is "East & West" at the Studio at Literary Arts on Saturday, Sept 24. Need more incentive? Admission is free. More details here.

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