October 14, 2013

Director and actor Linda Shary offers 'Free Conversations' to Portlanders

With a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, she sets out to see if people will turn off cellphones and converse.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Linda Shary chats with Andrew Kiezulas of Portland. He agreed that “there’s too little personal stuff, where you care about what someone has to say.” .

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Linda Shary with her sandwich board is offering free conversations in Monument Square.

John Patriquin/StaffPhotographer

Without much prompting, he started to tell Shary: “I do these meditations, where I look at an inanimate object and imagine what it would say to me. It’s revolutionized the way I see people and interact with them.”

When Shary asked how he came to do such exercises, Kiezulas paused and took a breath.

“So, I’m sober. Long road to sobriety. My uncle’s got 30 years sober and he handed me this book, with (the exercise) in it.”

A few minutes after Kiezulas left, after talking about a wide range of things, 12-year-old Johanna Canter of Portland walked up to the table and told Shary she had been studying the menu. She said she would like to talk about superhero powers. Flying and being invisible sounded like the best to her.

“Would you use them for good, or would you be mischievous and play tricks on people you didn’t like?” asked Shary.

“A little of both, I think,” said Johanna. “I just think it would be fun to do secret stuff.”

Rebecca Leeman, who is studying to be a chef at Southern Maine Community College, looked over Shary’s menu and picked the topic of favorite foods.

“I’m learning about classic French cooking, and it’s really tasty, but not really good for you,” said Leeman.

“Have you seen or read ‘Julie and Julia’?” asked Shary. “Julia Child’s cooking was all about the butter. Maybe there’s something to be said for living well and being happy, even if the food is not always the healthiest.”

Some people who didn’t stop to converse took a menu with them, giving Shary hope they might use it as a conversation starter in the privacy of their own homes.

About 100 menus were given out. Johanna, the 12-year-old who had talked about superhero powers, came back later and asked if she could steal the idea, and facilitate free conversations herself.

“There is and will always be a hunger, a basic desire for one-to-one interaction with people, including strangers,” said Shary a few days after her free conversations took place. “It’s what makes us human, it’s what gives us a sense of humor, it’s when we are at our best. I’m hoping there are free conversations going on all over Portland right now.”

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

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