Rediscovering her voice
In early 2013, life was good for actor and singer Pat Henman (BA’81). She had recently released her first solo album, was enjoying a rewarding job and had plenty of opportunities to perform. Within months, however, Henman’s life was irrevocably altered when an SUV driven by an impaired driver hit her, leaving Henman with life-threatening injuries. Now, seven years later, Henman is ready to share her story. In February, Caitlin Press will publish Henman’s memoir, Beyond the Legal Limit.
The book is the next stage in a long artistic journey that began in a childhood home filled with music. “My dad could play music by ear,” says Henman, “My mom was a trained classical singer. We had kitchen parties all the time.”
Henman’s love of music led to a passion for theatre in Grade 7, when she auditioned for the school’s musical. “It was like home for me on that stage, making up a character,” says Henman. “I got to sing—and then I heard the applause and it was double the magic.”
Given her love for performing, Henman was thrilled when she was accepted into Dal’s Theatre program in the late 70s. “When I walked into the Sir James Dunn Theatre, I knew that was where I wanted to be,” says Henman. “I spent days there, starting at 8:00 in the morning and not leaving until midnight for weeks upon weeks.”
Henman’s work in the arts never faltered until 2013, when the collision left her physically unable to sing. “I deeply struggled with the fact that I didn’t have a voice for so long,” says Henman. “I have a broken shoulder that will never be fixed, but that didn’t bother me as much as not being able to sing, to get on stage and project as an actor.”
With the help of a voice pathologist, Henman has regained about 80 per cent of her singing ability. As Henman navigated her rehabilitation, she regularly updated her friend, playwright Kelly Rebar, who encouraged her to write her story.
Henman worked on her memoir for over three years before submitting it to Caitlin Press. “They picked it up—and they were the first press we sent it to,” says Henman. “I feel very blessed.”
Rebar, however, wanted Henman to take the story farther, encouraging her to turn the memoir into a performance.
With support from a non-profit organization called the Amy Ferguson Institute and Canada Council for the Arts, Henman was able to make it happen. “We’ve been working on the stage adaptation since last May or June. It will be ready in April,” says Henman.
Henman hopes that the book and performance will help educate people about the dangers of drinking and driving. But more than anything, Henman says her story is about perseverance—and she’s ready to move on.
“I think I need to let go of that era soon,” she says. “Now that I’ve finished writing it, I’m going to find out what else I can do in the third act of my life. I want to enjoy just being Pat. Maybe I can start to live a bit quieter. It’s been a loud seven and a half years.”