Love Covers spreads holiday cheer with a universal message

By Charles Hallman
Staff Writer

The cast of Love Covers in the closing scene.

Around 20 local individuals comprise the cast of Love Covers, a play staged last Saturday, December 18, at the Women’s Club of Minneapolis. Dorie McKnight is the author of the play, which is based on her book Cover Girls in the Church.

“It is talking about how people come to church and there is so much going on at home,” she noted of the book that she published in 2007. “I wrote the play and put it on a year later.”
Rather than one central character, McKnight explained, her play instead revolves around “teams” of characters such as two “fair-weather girlfriends”; two women with “one living a pretend life, and the other one acting like everything’s good at home but it really isn’t”; and a husband and a wife.

“It’s really about relationships,” the playwright pointed out.

The play was previously staged last summer, but Bernice Gregory, one of Love Covers’ 20 local performers, said Love Covers fits in at this time of year as well. “It’s a perfect time of year to reach out and let people know that…you always have love.”

Gregory plays a hairdresser who dreams of one day owing her own salon and who sings several solos. “I think everyone did an excellent job, and I’m just excited to be a part of the cast,” she added.

“This was an awesome undertaking,” said fellow cast member Debra Pigue. “We really did become family over the course of the rehearsals, being there to encourage, support and strengthen each other.”

“I enjoyed the directing, because it gave me the opportunity to tap into their creativity,” said Love Covers director Joyce Marrie. “A lot of times they don’t realize that they have that potential inside them. But once they realize, it builds up their self-esteem. It was a great experience for them to have this opportunity. They really did learn from this whole process.”

“I thought that everyone was right on cue, doing their thing,” said McKnight, who was pleased with the modest turnout, having been concerned the play would compete with other local Christmas productions. “There are a lot of things going on, but we wanted to make sure that we spread some holiday love, too.”

“I especially enjoyed the singing. It was truly anointed singing,” said Norma Harper of Robbinsdale.

“I enjoyed it immensely,” said Gloria Thomas of Minneapolis. “I thought the cast was excellent,”

Stage actress Jeannette Bayardelle was the play’s special guest; she gave a brief performance shortly after intermission. “I’m happy to bring Broadway, New York to Minnesota,” said Bayardelle, who played “Celie” in The Color Purple for almost four years both on Broadway and on the road.

With two gospel CDs to her credit, Bayardelle brought the audience to its feet during her three-song performance, which included “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls. She told the audience beforehand that she usually sings the song that Jennifer Hudson made famous when she auditions, but based on the crowd’s reaction, it easily could be her signature song as well.

“She was off the chain,” exclaimed Thomas afterwards.

Asked where her true passion lies — Bayardelle also dances and plays the piano and drums — she admitted, “I would say creating is my passion. In creating, you sing and change the atmosphere with your voice.”

Bayardelle said that she is finishing up a screenplay based on a childhood friend. “We are planning to be on Broadway, and I will be on Broadway,” she predicted.

McKnight said she first met Bayardelle last summer during an acting workshop in New York, and later invited her to come to Minneapolis. “She never had seen me before, so that is a lot of trust, to get on the airplane to come here. She is very down to earth,” noted McKnight. “I wished that the crowd was bigger.”

Bayardelle, who said it was her first time ever in the Twin Cities, worked with the cast during a dress rehearsal as well as made a public appearance at Mall of America the day before last Saturday’s performance. She said she was excited to come and help McKnight.

Bayardelle critiqued the cast, Marrie explained, “not only the actors, but me as director as well. That helped a lot. The actors came up to another level.”

Where does Love Covers head next? “I’m proud of the work, and we’re ready to take it on the road,” said McKnight. “I’m fine-tuning it and tweaking it. Even since she [Bayardelle] has been here, we already are talking about how to take out some things to make [the play] more conducive to the world.

“We don’t want to do just church plays. The message of love…is universal. It’s not just for the church.”

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.