Hi everyone, I’m Leigh Cordner, the Creative Director at Medieval Times. I’m here to answer your questions with help from Atlas Obscura, who wrote about me. I’ve spent the last 30 years at Medieval Times. I’ve performed in all of the facilities in a variety of roles. Since 2001, I’ve held the position of Creative Director of Show, responsible for the writing, content, and quality control of each of the nine Medieval Times shows.

After starting my Medieval Times career in the Florida castle, I returned to my hometown of Toronto to open the first Medieval Times in Canada in 1993. In order to establish a corporate show team headquarters, I relocated back to Florida in 2004 to work daily with fellow Director Tim Baker, who is responsible for all of the combat stunts and choreography.

I’ve participated in the opening of the last five Medieval Times facilities and am the author of the show script, as well as Director of the cast for each location. I have completed four show scripts, beginning with “Wolf at the Gates” in 2001, ‘Harness of War” in 2007, “North” in 2011, and the current show being rolled out across the nine castles, “Sovereign”.

As part of the creation of the show, I traveled with composer Daniel May to Kiev, Ukraine in September of 2017 to assist in the recording of the Medieval Times soundtrack by the National Symphony of Ukraine, and the National Ukrainian Choir. This is the fourth Medieval Times score by Daniel May, the first two recorded in Prague, and the last two in Kiev. Once all of the choreography, costuming, music, and lighting installations are complete, Tim and I will travel to rehearse and install the new production in each of the Medieval Times castles. As of February 2018, three castles are running the new show, with Buena Park, California slated to begin production in March.

I am a Marine Corps veteran, a former on-air radio personality, and a past contestant on the television game show, ‘Jeopardy!’

Proof: https://twitter.com/atlasobscura/status/967125020395917317

EDIT: It has been wonderful talking with all of you, and we look forward to seeing you at a Medieval Times location soon. See you in Phoenix!

Comments: 1550 • Responses: 51  • Date: 

hammerton2967 karma

Hi Leigh,

When I went to Medieval Times as a child in Toronto, I was told by the waitstaff that they were handing out 'baby dragons' for us to eat. When I tasted this 'baby dragon' put on my plate, it tasted VERY SIMILAR to chicken.

Could you please confirm or deny the use of 'baby dragons' in the Medieval Times cuisine?

Thanks

atlasobscura1977 karma

Haha, yeah, the first server that used that line should have gotten royalties. No, we don’t serve baby dragons (or dragon toes, dragon blood, or any of the other silly names they give the food). The servers do it to have fun with the guests - lucky for dragons.

squimp1263 karma

I went to the Buena Park one for a Blizzard employee event and you guys had a custom script where all the knights were re-named after Warcraft and other blizzard properties. It was a great show, how often do you guys do custom events like that?

atlasobscura1147 karma

That Blizzard event has become an annual thing. I think they are doing it every year in (July?) We customize some shows for buy-outs (like Blizzard) but it is a lengthy and complicated process!

flash_falcon1099 karma

Lifelong fan!!! Why won't the knights give me a damn rose??? Men want flowers too...

atlasobscura977 karma

Haha. There is no policy against it.

atlasobscura164 karma

Haha. There is no policy against it.

vector_ejector881 karma

How often do you get requests to re-enact the scene from The Cable Guy? As a huge Star Trek fan, it would be my go-to request.

atlasobscura1242 karma

That movie was a blessing and a curse! We actually filmed it in the LA location, and so that is our castle you see in the film. The problem was, for several years after it came out, we had nuts sneaking into the arena during the show to do a re-enactment! Dangerous! I actually pinned a guy to the wall with my horse in Toronto because he was sneaking up on the 2 Knights fighting in the show.

Alwaysatodds868 karma

I just went to the castle in New Jersey for the first time in about 20 years and I had a blast. I was wondering were the sword fights always so slow? I know that they are obviously choreographed but it looked a lot more like dancing than sword fighting. Still had a great time and am certainly not knocking it, but I was wondering if you could talk about how you guys stage the sword fighting.

atlasobscura1522 karma

The combat is rehearsed for around 3 hours most days of the week. The Knights may range in experience from 30 days, to 25 years. If you see a less-than-believable action sequence, you are probably watching a novice knight (or two) in a fight. With training comes more speed.

teknogeek78653 karma

What's your most memorable encounter with a member of the audience, be it good, bad or otherwise?

atlasobscura1807 karma

A woman was once offered a ‘favor’ from a Knight which was tied to the tip of his lance…….later in the show, when he returned to retrieve it, instead of tying the scarf back on, she removed her bra, and draped it over the Knights lance.

xubax651 karma

How well are the horses treated? My wife took me to one but we ended up leaving because she was worried about the horses.

My wife can be a bit over sensitive. I didn't see any treatment that concerned me.

atlasobscura1379 karma

Im glad you asked. We pride ourselves on our horses, and on the care they receive. We even have a ‘Horse treatment policy’ that has to be reviewed and signed annually by anyone in the company than interacts with the horses. They are not just tools for us, because we establish long relationships with some of these horses. We breed them at our own ranch in TX, and then work with them for years in the system. They are (for lack of a better word) almost pets to us, and just as loved and respected.

fromman003620 karma

Is it hard for you as a performer to be told to lose on a given night?

atlasobscura1113 karma

I’m not a Knight, but I do arrange for them to lose! I don’t think the guys mind ‘losing’ but i do know there are nights when they ask “Can I win?” With the number of shows we do every week, nobody would want to win all the time!

archize591 karma

I remember going to a Medieval Times. I don't specifically know what town it was in, but it was in a barn near/in London, Ontario. Any idea what location that was? I'd like to go back!

atlasobscura1033 karma

You were there!!?? That was a one of a kind event (I did that show!). It was freezing cold……...there was a breakdown with the local London venue, and the organizer was forced to ask us to do the show in that barn. (I believe the owners raised Freisan horses). The horses breath in that freezing cold barn was one of the coolest special effects Ive ever seen.

janeetcetc576 karma

Hi Leigh, how much do you improvise based on the crowd?

atlasobscura1062 karma

The show is scripted, and we don’t really allow alot of ad-libs since the lines often trigger a light, sound, or action cue, and safety is involved. The cast can adlib in several scenes not involving action.

callmesixone428 karma

Many of the younger audience members obviously don't know it's scripted. Does the blind awe that these children have make you happier to do your job? Is it a rewarding thing to see?

atlasobscura934 karma

For us, kids are the best thing to see in an audience! I can’t tell you how many times I have see little boys or girls crying when their knight gets ‘killed’! They think it’s real of course (as if we would kill a half dozen employees every night) and that is one of the main reasons for both the ‘Finale’ and the meet & greet after a single, or late show. So the kids can meet and talk with the cast (and be assured they aren’t ‘dead’!) The new role of ‘Queen’ has some of the little girls in the audience speechless when they meet. It’s awesome.

teknogeek78386 karma

Has there ever been a performance where something has gone really wrong, and the audience never knew?

atlasobscura433 karma

There have been a lot of situations during the ‘live’ show that we have managed to deflect the audience’s attention from - but some of it is so visible that we just have to allow the horse or performer to get things straightened out and then move on.

whileIminTherapy164 karma

Do you recall any specific incidents?

atlasobscura560 karma

We have had falcons disappear up into the ceiling tiles and never come down for the rest of the show. I’ve introduced Knights for their ride-out, and for one reason or another, they never entered, and so i acted as if that was the plan, and introduced the next one.

MorphineBear315 karma

In the article you said that Medieval Times changes some parts of the show every couple of years. How do you decide what to change and how do you market it for people who have never seen the show?

atlasobscura438 karma

We have to keep the main aspects of the product the same, since people expect a certain combination of acts from us. ‘Changing’ the show involves giving as many of those staples a ‘fresh’ look, and interweaving (where we can) them into the new plot device. Some things are always new with a new show, music, costuming, script…...and now a character (Queen!)

RedTexan04304 karma

Why doesn't the Black Knight ever get his moment to shine? I want to see him win at least once. Im that guy who always roots for him!

atlasobscura465 karma

It’s a morality play - the bad guy can’t win.

____CYCLOPS____272 karma

Do you franchise? How do I get a Castle in my part of the country?

atlasobscura957 karma

We do not, and obviously, we need a large market to sell seats. I can announce right here, that we are about to break ground on a BRAND NEW MEDIEVAL TIMES in Phoenix, which we hope to have open in early 2019!

Harlaxt0n251 karma

Why is it that no matter how many times I go (usually take the kids annually to the one in Myrtle Beach, SC) my knight never, ever...wins?

atlasobscura385 karma

I’ve seen that question before. Any of the six can win……..I’m thinking you have terrible luck!

jonnubroth242 karma

How is the reception of the Queen going??

atlasobscura468 karma

Excellent! The press has been very attentive to the new design, and of course our actresses are really excited. The timing of the change to a female monarch seems to have caught alot of attention (we were working on it 18 months ago). Certainly, the girls and women in the audience are noticing, and seem pleased with the choice.

mrsmagiclee188 karma

when a new performer joins the team, how long does it take to learn the routines? also, how do you find the performers?

atlasobscura315 karma

We accept applications like anyone else. For the stage, we generally look for acting experience, but when it comes to Knighting, we look for good character, physical fitness, commitment. From hiring to doing one fight in the show is generally a six-month process, depending on how quickly the candidate masters the riding (it is not as easy as it looks!)

Better_than_Trajan187 karma

I wanted to bring my 2 young kids and scream and shout but my wife said they aren't old enough yet. At what age would you recommend the the youngest in the audience be?

atlasobscura355 karma

I have grand-nieces and nephews, I think around 5 or so the kids enjoy the action and the pageantry - I doubt they are following the plot. Little girls seem to love the horses, and the boys love the sword-fighting.

purelyirrelephant156 karma

Medieval Times has always been a fond memory of my childhood, thank you for the experiences.

Is there something you've always wanted to do for the show but have been limited by certain circumstances (too costly, too dangerous, liability, etc.) and what is it?

atlasobscura282 karma

Great question. Yes! There are some incredible special effects out there now, but we are so limited by our (necessary) arena design. Unlike other theaters, we have no sub-floor, overheads, or multiple entry/exit points - and so alot of the great tech stuff isn’t available to us - (I am secretly hoping the hologram industry continues to expand and grow).

uberlad152 karma

What’s your very best life advice?

atlasobscura386 karma

Sit up straight and face forward.

ImaginaryMairi142 karma

What is your all time personal favourite story about working with Medieval Times?

atlasobscura226 karma

All of the veteran performers have a favorite moment, myself included. I look forward to the music project every four years, working with our composer Daniel May is a hugely interesting gig - but like a lot of the other guys, my favorite moments have involved the kids that come to the show as guests from organizations like Give Kids the World, or Shriners. They are generally magical kids, so appreciative of what we do, and interested in finding out as much as they can about our world.

maxodog116 karma

Hi Leigh! Thank you so much for doing this AMA. Unfortunately, I have yet to attend one of your fine establiahments. My location is not ideal :/

I have worked in many kitchens, and still do. I was wondering how accurate the menu/food preparation is to a "medieval time?"

Thank you!

atlasobscura244 karma

Haha. Join us soon. To be honest, I don’t think there is any aspect of our meal prep that is ‘medieval’ (and you should be glad). Read the passage in “Ivanhoe” that describes a typical medieval meal - awful! On a typical Saturday night, one location may prepare 4,000 meals! No open fires……..

YBHunted111 karma

I went a few times as a child when in middle school and had a blast. I don't plan to go again until I have children of my own and they come of age, given you guys are still around (hoping for this). How much of your business would you say is repeat customers? I can't help but feel like since it's choreographed and often very similar that it is hard to bring in the same customer multiple times. I'd be worried about running out of customers, but I guess with each year comes a new set of kids and families who are ready to see it now that they have come of age.

atlasobscura234 karma

Exactly. I have met young parents bringing their kids to the show in the same way their parents had brought THEM. I have even had young Knights come to work and show me pictures of themselves as kids posing with me in costume 20 years before!

faeyt89 karma

If time travel becomes a reality, would you opt for hiring actual knights as opposed to actors?

atlasobscura195 karma

Wouldn’t be much career longevity - they rarely reached 40.

Lemonsnot81 karma

How much of a career is this for your actors? Do they typically come in expecting to do it for a long time?

atlasobscura142 karma

I have been with the show for 30 years. Tim Baker, our Stunt and choreography Director has been with the show for 34! - and there are many others over 20, 25 years. There are different roles within the show, and if you manage to stay in good shape, and you have a talent for …...say… a speaking role after your knighting career, you can move sideways. We also acquire ex-Knights as horse trainers, since they have a long and storied history with the horses.

vonKemper72 karma

How much influence have popular television shows, like Game of Thrones, The Tudors, Reign, etc. had on both growth of your company as well as content within the shows?

atlasobscura142 karma

Very little when it comes to content (as a matter of fact, once i am working on a new show i avoid watching anything like that) but it has certainly helped us as a business. If you have some interest in swords and horses, there is really only one place to go. The Tudor reign is 500 years off our target, and GofT is entertaining fantasy, but not really a model for us (although I would LOVE to have their budget!)

CulTona66 karma

What was your favorite non-scripted moment. Where something went wrong but ended up being better than what was intended?

atlasobscura160 karma

I worked with a guy years ago in Toronto and LA, and our mission was to see who could crack up who every night. Some of our laughing spasms were epic. We lost it so bad in Toronto one night, no-one spoke for about 60 seconds (and the longer it went on, the more the audience laughed).

Another night, I was MCing a buy-out show and the president of the company was ‘The King’ and he was supposed to have a microphone in his throne when he got on stage - it wasn’t there, so in the 3 minutes it took to get him one, i had to fill. It was 3 minutes of killer adlib.

HCJohnson61 karma

How big of a spike did you see after the movie The Cable Guy came out?

As a Kansan that was the first time I'd ever heard of your places.

atlasobscura108 karma

Like I said earlier, a blessing and a curse! All of the sword/knight/horse TV shows and movies create interest in our show, and we’ve even jousted on Hollywood Blvd (for Black Knight) at premieres. Once you are part of the American lexicon, you see yourselves everywhere (youtube, Family Guy, Simpsons, jeopardy!)

TyrionDidIt52 karma

Whats your favorite medieval-period movie/TV-show?

atlasobscura93 karma

Excalibur - John Boorman. Hands down.

1340dyna50 karma

There's a rock singer named Russell Allen that used to be a jouster, did you ever meet him, and was he any good?

atlasobscura95 karma

I know Russell. I think he is still singing with a band. He was a Knight in the show for quite a while. Good - as I recall.

Cyrith49 karma

Having known some knights, I've heard some horrible hazing stories. New knights having to squat naked under a horse was the most memorable. How do you deal with hazing?

atlasobscura160 karma

I don’t know where you heard that, maybe in the old days of the company there was more of a frat-house atmosphere - but not anymore. We are serious about a healthy and safe work environment, and about respect. It’s serious work for serious people.

Jeremy102646 karma

My family would always make sure to hit up Medieval Times Orlando during family vacations to Disney World. While we were there it was always a magical experience.

How do you deal with the difficulties of working with so many people and animals?

atlasobscura72 karma

We have an incredible training regimen, and outstanding cooperation between the 4 departments that comprise the show (Cast, Knights, Stables, Sound & Light) Everything we do is geared around the horses, and so we approach each problem or project by considered what will work best for the horses, and then inserting ourselves into the equation. We count heavily on our departmental managers too - if they are clicking together, everything works.

2hundred2043 karma

Hi Leigh,

Every year, a convention of medieval historians descends upon Kalamazoo, MI and during that time, attends the MT location there. Are you aware of any comments they've made about accuracy and have you or your crew ever worked with them to incorporate their input?

atlasobscura98 karma

I was unaware of it. (I assume you mean Chicago castle?) We understand we aren’t medieval purists, but from what I’ve read about the period (and it’s a lot!) i don’t think many people would enjoy an evening in the 11th century….

ulong287437 karma

Do you have multiple scripts that you rotate through daily, or just one script that changes every few years? What I'm asking if if I go see the show, and then come back not that long later, like a few weeks, would I already know all the results?

atlasobscura61 karma

We manage to switch up the colors (sometimes every show). So we might fool you - but for interchangability around the country (we fly performers around to cover shortages) we have to keep the show the same company-wide for a few years until its time for a new production.

Schnawsberry34 karma

Are the jousting matches scripted as well? I mean as far as winners and losers...

atlasobscura73 karma

Yes, we have to draw up a ‘show board’ each night as the fights are carefully choreographed (and not all Knights know all fights). The games are pure competition.

Neknoh17 karma

Why don't you base your costumes even vaguely off of historical sources?

atlasobscura85 karma

We do our best. The fact is, the costumes are used up to 3 times a day, so we look for durability.

bephf13 karma

Hi Leigh, thanks for doing this! I've been trying to get a straight answer on why there are no female knights in the show. It seems like it's long overdue and could garner a ton of positive buzz. What are your thoughts?

atlasobscura9 karma

This is a hot topic right now - all i can say is that for us, it is a challenging job from a training and staffing point. We continue to change and evolve as a show, stay tuned - you never know!

7Nantis12 karma

I've never been so is it true you can actually eat with just your hands... ?asking for a friend I always missed the field trips when I was in school, so now my girlfriend wants to take me the Toronto location even though I'm 26,so I'm excited for this AMA

atlasobscura10 karma

Yes you do. Get it all over yourself - enjoy!

Onekama11 karma

Any chance you have an inside scoop on a Denver location?!?

atlasobscura24 karma

Sorry - looks like Phoenix will be your best bet!

Twigglesnix8 karma

how do you keep people coming back for more? I mean once they've seen it, isn't that the whole experience?

atlasobscura33 karma

Maybe for a movie, but not ‘live’ theater - lets face it, anything can happen. And since we do freshen up the show, it gives you a reason to come back. (I’ve seen ‘LOVE’ in Vegas 3 times!) Always the same, always entertaining.

groynshot5 karma

I'm sure this is likely not in your purview, but I'm wondering if there's any way to get the food with no salt added? I recognize the huge logistic nightmare of getting all that food out quickly and within food safety criteria, but man... the only thing which has kept me from going back was that the food was sooo salty. I get that you probably want to sell drinks, too, but there's only so much a drink can do to wash away the salt. I ended up not eating most of the food.

atlasobscura13 karma

I’m not sure about that - you can certainly call the call center when booking and ask about low sodium meals. We have become pretty aware, and flexible about special requests over the years.

D3adlywithap3n3 karma

How long did Medieval Times have to close to flim the scene from Cable Guy?

atlasobscura7 karma

I believe it was 2 weeks (?) We just finished filming a new :30 second TV commercial in Dallas - it took 2 days!

BigHardSunn3 karma

How often do you guys hire horse riders?

atlasobscura3 karma

Constantly. We are always expanding our depth in each show role. If someone with great qualifications shows up, we hate to pass! Plus, new facilities like Phoenix create new demands.

glitterpigeon2 karma

Medieval Times is a tourism go-to ...what do you like to do when you travel? Mirror mazes? Mini golf?

atlasobscura2 karma

Regular golf, or a Harley ride in the Rockies. (But i do love the work Cirque du Soleil does).

SzaboZicon-3 karma

In the coming decades we are bound to see more and more socially responsible citizens emerge. Does mideval times have any plans for vegan dining?

atlasobscura1 karma

We have offered a vegetarian meal for many years.