Five months ago Christopher Eaves began work on a movement theater piece called "Birthmarks," about an adoptee's search for his birth parents. An adoptee himself, Mr. Eaves wasn't reunited with his own birth parents until several months ,, later, but their story turned out to be remarkably close to the drama he was creating.
When "Birthmarks" debuts Monday and Tuesday at Mr. Eaves' VTC alma mater, Towson State University, his birth parents and his adoptive parents are expected to attend. The show is one of two premieres for 23-year-old Mr. Eaves; another work, "Class," opens at Towson tomorrow as part of "Cross Currents," a program celebrating the inauguration of the theater department's movement theater discipline.
Mr. Eaves, who also stars in "Birthmarks," insists, "I didn't want it to be Chris' story as much as I wanted it to be a story everyone could see parts of their life in." But while the hourlong multimedia piece encompasses the universal themes of coming to terms with the past and forging an identity, it is also highly personal.
For instance, a video section tells the story of an unmarried teen-age couple facing an unexpected pregnancy -- not dissimilar from his birth parents' predicament. In fact, this section comes closer to the truth than the character he devised for himself -- a circus tightrope walker whose costume includes a huge pair of wings.
Unlike most children, Mr. Eaves didn't want to join the circus during his formative years in Carroll County. Instead, he wanted to be a movement theater artist, an interest he suspects was sparked by watching "Shields and Yarnell" on television.
He defines movement theater as a style in which "you can use your muscularity to articulate emotion the way an actor uses his voice." Now a resident of New York, he has performed with the Margolis Brown Adaptors and is an artistic associate with Donald Byrd/The Group.
Maravene Loeschke, chairwoman of Towson's theater department, says Mr. Eaves was a major influence behind the creation of the movement theater program, which she believes is the only college program of its kind.
Mr. Eaves describes his other Towson debut, "Class," as "an exploration of social structure in the United States." The 15-minute work features a cast of six students, under his direction, portraying upper-, middle- and lower-class couples.
The other two pieces on the "Cross Currents" bill are "Gender Dance," directed by David Gaines, a London-based movement artist; and "What happens if they find out I'm not the man I think I am?" directed by Tom Casciero, head of the movement theater program.
Referring to "Birthmarks," Mr. Eaves says he still hasn't learned where he spent the first two years of his life, after his birth mother surrendered him and before he was adopted. Perhaps someone who sees the piece will fill in the blank.
Whether or not that occurs, he hopes audiences will be provoked by the fundamental questions "Birthmarks" raises, such as "Who am I?" and "What made me the way I am?"
"In the end," he says, "you have to answer the questions for yourself."
What: "Cross Currents," 8 p.m. Oct. 11-12 and 16-19; "Birthmarks," 8 p.m. Oct. 14-15 ("Birthmarks" performances will be followed by a panel discussion on adoption issues).
Where: Towson State University, Mainstage Theater, Fine Arts Center.