For others, Ronstadt can’t be viewed as a musician and artist without also considering her Mexican American background. For GerRee Hinshaw, both facets of Ronstadt carry deep personal meaning.
As a child, GerRee Hinshaw and her mother listened to Linda Ronstadt during a road trip. Hinshaw said that shared experience opened them up to each other … and themselves.
“It's just this reflection of, of you know, Linda and I have a common heritage” Hinshaw said. “In one way in my childhood, Linda was this awesome example of, you know, just her style of singing, the way she just threw herself at these, at these songs.”
Listening to Ronstadt later as an adult had a different effect on her.
“When I was really in the throes of kind of — with how my lack of knowing fluent Spanish — sometimes makes me feel at arm's length from whether I, can fully claim all of my Mexican heritage.”
Fast forward to March 2021, during the pandemic shutdowns, LOCAL Theater Company’s founding artistic director Pesha Rudnick logged on to watch a streaming presentation of "Stories On Stage." In it was GerRee Hinshaw's reading of Linda Ronstadt’s 2013 memoir intercut with some covers of the icon's music, and a few of Hinshaw’s own personal stories. Rudnick rushed to meet with the creator that same evening. Her theater’s mission is to discover, develop and produce new American plays.
“Rudnick was just really, enthusiastic about the effect of the mother-daughter aspect of my storytelling,” Hinshaw said. “And the way I was able to, to really show that, Ronstadt was truly a part of this duo, this soundtrack to this little mother-daughter duo, in my early childhood.”
Now Hinshaw is opening the LOCAL Theater season with a fully developed show called Raised on Ronstadt. In it, Hinshaw begins with the story of that road trip with her mother.
“Her also just extremely sensitive and detailed interpretations of style and genre really influenced how I sing,” Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw says Ronstadt’s earlier pop/rock music was easy to relate to for her, but it was the Spanish language recording of "Canciones de Mi Padre" that jolted her heart into a deeper understanding of herself.
“It just hit me one day,” she said. “I can remember the moment and I'm listening to this song, and I realized I'm hearing her belt this Ranchera, and I'm like, ‘That is the belt. That's the belt. The whole time I've been singing like Linda Ronstadt’ ….I grew up with that music, but I always felt like it wasn't something that was mine to have because I couldn't understand Spanish. And suddenly it just turned my whole world around.”
For this full-fledged production, Hinshaw is aided and accompanied by mariachi singer and guitarist Mari Meza-Burgos. The two met a few years ago during a production at Denver's Curious Theatre Company.
“She had asked me to help her with some of the mariachi components in the piece since I've been a mariachi for about 20 years. She wanted to understand the mariachi songs a little bit better and just to stay true to the mariachi style,” Meza-Burgo said. “So I worked with her on that before she put it on “Stories on Stage,” and I was invited back to do the main production with her.”
Meza-Burgo said she didn't have a great deal of knowledge about Ronstadt’s pop music when the two began this collaboration, but that she had her own connection to Ronstadt.
“But it's more on the mariachi side of things. I actually didn't even know she did rock or, you know, pop things before,” Meza-Burgo said, adding that now she can her all of Linda’s musical influences across her body of work.
In reading Ronstadt’s memoir, Hinshaw learned about Linda Ronstadt’s own inspiration, the iconic Mexican artist Lola Beltrán. That kind of connection to early influences became a touchstone for Hinshaw, her team, and early audiences — asking themselves, “Who was my Linda?”
“I think that's just a universal experience we think a lot of folks who will come to this show are gonna have,” Hinshaw said.
“I think something that everyone will take away from this piece is that, they all have — everyone will have — their own Linda,” Meza-Burgos said. “This is GerRee's story, however, the songs and the music accompanied with those stories put us all in a place of our own memories. Put us in a place maybe, back with our own families or maybe to a place where music was an integral part of who we are.”
Hinshaw said she hopes the audience feels more than nostalgia for the music.
“I would say that the show is about the choices that are sometimes made for us and the choices that we get to make and how, I slowly learned, how to choose to shine,” Hinshaw said. “And how Linda, sort of lived by example in shining by choosing what moves you.”
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