With a month in Scotland and plans for Bogota, Liars & Believers is building itself a bigger stage
With a big-name residency in Scotland behind it, the Cambridge-based theater company Liars & Believers hopes to make arts and culture as synonymous with its home city as universities and biotech.
Liars & Believers is a 14-year-old troupe that recently joined the world stage. For more than a decade, the company toured its shows around New England. After years of exploring opportunities in the regional circuit, leaders were interested in expanding internationally. The team’s artistic director, Jason Slavick, brought on the Boston-born Georgia Lyman as executive producer to make this happen.
Liars & Believers returned recently from an Aug. 5-29 residency at the Assembly Festival, part of Scotland’s famed Edinburgh Festival Fringe, an annual arts and culture event. Assembly first offered Liars & Believers a residency in 2020, then held the spot for two years until the pandemic abated, which Lyman found “really remarkable.”
Liars & Believers’ residency show, “Yellow Bird Chase,” is one the company is familiar with after performing it for a residency at Boston Center for the Arts in 2017. The play is a family-friendly musical that follows a crew of maintenance workers after they discover a magical yellow bird and go on a chase to try to sell its chicks. It uses what the troupe calls “gibberish,” a made-up language that combines hand gestures and nonverbal sounds. This language has made the play accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences as well as non-English speakers. “We wanted to make this for literally everybody,” Lyman said.
During the Scotland residency, the team got some particularly touching feedback: For one family’s daughter, a deaf and nonverbal girl, it was her first theater show, and she loved it. “The fact that somebody who can’t normally go see shows was able to enjoy it … makes me very happy,” Lyman said.
The Assembly residency has been “an investment, and it’s paying off so far,” Lyman said. As the troupe seeks to expand its international presence, he called it a great opportunity for the team to meet other independent theater producers and pitch the show to potential buyers.
It’s an exciting step, but what’s next for the troupe? With Liars & Believers’ returns from the residency, its team is moving forward on regional and international projects. Members plan to remount their 2018 show “A Story Beyond” for a February performance at the new Foundry community building in East Cambridge and say they are in talks for a spring residency at a university in Bogota, Colombia. In April or May, they plan a performance of “Letters from Prague,” a personal family history of the Holocaust from Slavick’s wife Tamar Shapiro that Slavick recently adapted into a play.
This is all part of the troupe’s mission to “start waving the banner of Boston arts and culture,” Lyman said.
“Boston and Cambridge are always going to be our home,” said Lyman, but “we are trying to cement a further global recognition of Greater Boston as a creative hub.”