In 'Birthmarks,' the Bird Boy finds his mother, as did the actor

October 11, 1991|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Evening Sun Staff

THE BIRD Boy ascends the stage on shiny white and silver wings. As he softly lands amid a cluster of chorusing women, he finds himself in an alien environment where he resembles no one.

In a desperate search for his own kind, he experiences a series of comical and tragic misadventures that at last lead him to the mother who abandoned him at birth.

This is the surreal framework for ''Birthmarks,'' an autobiographical movement piece written and performed by Christopher Eaves.

"It is a spiritual experience for me," said Eaves recently during a rehearsal break at the college. "I just found my birth parents two months ago."

In the piece, "a struggling teen-age couple feel compelled to give up their newborn for adoption. This is what actually happened in my real life," he said, "but I did not know it at the time I wrote 'Birthmarks.'

It is being presented Monday and Tuesday evenings in the Mainstage Theatre at Towson State University, part of the university's new Movement Theatre program which gets under way tonight with "Cross Currents: An Evening of Three Original Movement Theatre Works."

Eaves' experimental one-hour vignette combines motion, spoken text, dance, song and video to give audiences an enlightened view of an adoptee growing up in America.

"In my parable, Bird Boy [he is also known as Duckie, the ugly duckling] has a passionate desire to seek his roots. He feels a misfit in his present world surrounded by beings with a different genealogical makeup."

The wings attached to the actor's shoulders have an eight-foot span and were created especially for his show. "The wings are prevalent throughout the play and are a symbol of the character's desire to fly away," he said.

"It is a long narrative, very literal, with a great deal of movement."

Eaves, a blond young man with an aristocratic countenance, is a 1989 graduate of the Towson State Theatre Department and is currently a professional performer working out of New York.

Reflecting on his past, he said he did not know what happened the first two years of his life. There are no records available. "At age 2 I was adopted through the Frederick County Department of Social Services by Carroll and Rosalie Eaves," he said. "They run a flourishing chrysanthemum business from their Taneytown farm."

In Eaves' work, chrysanthemums are carried on stage by the assemblage of women. "Each flower represents the children they have given up," he said.

"I have always had different interests from my adoptive parents," he pointed out. "I had a love for theater since age 10. I was in every play at Francis Scott Key High School. At Towson State I majored in theater and studied mime. Then I changed from mime to directing and acting -- four years of intensive study of movement and voice."

The Eaveses also adopted another son, Steven, who was raised with Christopher. "We have no blood ties, but we are a true family," said the actor, who also earns a living as a theater director, singer and dancer.

In his ongoing search for his birth parents, Eaves, 24, was assisted by ALMA (Adoptees Liberty Movement Association). "My mother, Sharon Keller, had registered with them, and the group brought us together. Sharon put me in touch with my father, Mac Johnson. They live in Glen Burnie and are happily married to other people," he said, proudly showing snapshots of both.

"Meeting with my mother for the first time -- and later my father -- I felt every emotion you can imagine," he said. "They were both 16 when I was born. They were so happy to see me . . . 'I've waited over 20 years,' my mother said, crying. "'God bless you,' said my father. We all hugged," added Eaves, misty-eyed at the remembrance.

"I was told I was one-third Welsh, one-third Cherokee and one-third German. And I have three half sisters. That was good to know."

The two sets of parents and their families all plan to attend the show.

"I have always known I was adopted," he said. "So there was no shock, which could be damaging if you find out late in life. There are few scars. And now that I have found my birth parents and sisters, I can get on with my life."

The actor has trained with the Margolis Brown Adaptors in New York and serves as artistic associate of Donald Byrd/The Group. He recently appeared at the Theatre Project in "Honey Chil' Milk," a portrayal of black women in the media.

The other three pieces in the Towson State University Movement Program, which continues through Oct. 19, are: "Gender Dance," directed by David Gaines; "What happens when they find out I'm not the man I think I am," directed by Tom Casciero; and another work by Eaves, "Class," an examination of American class structure.

Curtain time for all shows is 8 p.m. Tickets are $8/$5/$4. For reservations and dates of particular plays, call the Towson State University box office at 830-ARTS.

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