Pat Henman is what you would call a lifetime arts virtuoso.
An award-winning veteran of the Canadian theatre and music industry and published author, she has extensive experience and degrees in theatre, music and creative writing. Pat and her family, husband Larry and three children, Zoe, Maia and Liam, make their home in Nelson.
Pat’s memoir “Beyond the Legal Limit: Surviving a collision with a drunk driver” was published in the winter of 2021 by Caitlin Press.
This searingly honest portrait of a mother and daughter surviving a head-on collision details Pat and Maia’s catastrophic injuries, challenges for the entire family, and their determination to rebuild meaningful lives.
Over the last couple of years, Pat has been hard at work creating a theatrical presentation based on her memoir.
“It’s five years of my life, telling that story," Henman explained.
"This is a story I never thought I would have to tell. I never thought it would happen to me. Who would ever think that you’d have to go through this, and then you end up sharing it on stage as part of your craft."
She received a Canada Council for the Arts grant to adapt her book into a dramatic piece that is touring the Columbia Basin, thanks to a Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance grant.
Pat joined forces with a playwright and a composer to make this dream a reality. The pandemic put a wrench in her efforts, but she pushed through, and the first stage production by way of streaming took place in April 2021.
For Pat, the most exciting part of adapting the book for the stage was the element of music.
“It’s pretty dramatic to see the person that went through the actual event telling you about it and then singing you a song about it,” says Henman.
The theatrical presentation has run twice, in Nelson and Trail, both live-streamed. In the presentation, Pat appears on stage alongside pianist Robyn Lamb and singer Rachel DeShon. This week, Pat is performing at the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival. She will be online so that the audience can participate in real-time Q and A.
Writing the book was a complicated process for Pat.
“That first year and a half was really hard to put down on paper. I cried so much. I was doing so much research and looking at my medical records, and finding out new stuff about what happened to me. And new stuff about what happened to my daughter Maia. It forced me to learn so much. I learned about what those first days did to other people because I was in a coma for nine days. Maia was in a coma too.”
One of the chapters in her book shares the perspective of the event from her husband, Larry.
The process of creating the stage version of her memoir has been incredible: emotional and healing simultaneously.
“I had to approach it as an actor. Not as Pat Henman’s living story. I don’t think I could have done it as if I had to tell the story as Pat.”
Pat’s work has been very well received.
“I have done several interviews with CBC. I feel really, really blessed that CBC has taken a great interest in my project,” says Henman.
She says she couldn’t have done this without the support of many mentors and creative guides.
“I was really blessed to have great help. People with so much experience, they came on board for me and mentored me so well.”
Pat will be hard at work between now and October, putting on four more productions of the theatrical presentation.
Pat is looking to the future. She might write another book or direct a play. She could even imagine doing another theatrical version of her book, with someone else playing the role of Pat.
She also wants to take the performance to MADD Canada (where she is an avid volunteer) or Nova Scotia to do a Maritimes tour (originally from Nova Scotia, Pat is the second youngest of ten siblings).
The options are endless, and Pat is full of passion for the arts and will never stop dreaming about the next big project.
Visit www.pathenman.com/eventsfor information about Pat’s upcoming events.