"Revival!," a monologue-memoir by Andrew Himes being performed at Capitol Hill Arts Center, shows how this social activist forged a personal philosophy that incorporates his fundamentalist upbringing.

Share story

Theater Review |

Andrew Himes is the brother, nephew, grandson and great-grandson of Baptist preachers.

That Himes did not grow up to be a Baptist preacher himself may or may not be surprising. Same goes for the fact that as a young man, he rejected the fundamentalism of his grandfather, John R. Rice, a prominent evangelist and co-founder of the Religious Right in America.

What is surprising is that Himes found a way to embrace his upbringing while rejecting its dogmatism and forging his own identity.

Most Read Entertainment Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Now, as a Seattleite of deep social conscience (he’s the executive director of the Voices in Wartime Education Project), Himes is sharing his journey of spiritual rebirth in the form of “Revival!,” a memoir-as-monologue that bridges the gaps between his youthful Christianity, his young-adult passion for Maoist revolution and his maturity as a freethinking seeker of truth.

Looking younger while seeming wiser than his 57 years, Himes shares a personal odyssey that pivots around the civil-rights movement of the 1960s. Steeped in Southern racism, Himes had to reconcile the contradictions of his beloved grandfather with faith-shaking injustice in the segregated South. With college came revolutionary activism and the gradual awareness that Maoist communism was just another form of dogma. Years later, as a pioneering Web team manager at Microsoft (an experience curiously unmentioned in “Revival!”), Himes found little comfort in the lucrative pursuit of profit.

With subtle humor and a keen sense of irony, Himes relates a compelling chronology — accompanied by family photos, heirlooms and cheesy clips from an early-’70s fundamentalist film — that includes close encounters with Jerry Falwell, Bob Jones University and a genuinely terrifying concept of eternity.

Through it all, it’s clear that “Revival!” remains a work in progress. (A book version will be published later this year.) The material needs additional shaping and polish, and as a neophyte monologuist, Himes lacks the storytelling finesse and casual confidence of established performers like Julia Sweeney or the late Spaulding Gray. But “Revival!” will surely improve with each performance, distinguished by its creator’s capacity for understanding and compassion. Enriched by his unique family background, Himes transcends its fundamentalism to offer a new kind of revival — and a legacy of his own.

Jeff Shannon: j.sh@verizon.net