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Specialized ProfessionI Am Leigh Cordner, the Creative Director of Medieval Times. AMA!

Feb 26th 2018 by atlasobscura • 7 Questions • 9176 Points

This year marks the 65th anniversary of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration as the 34th President of the United States. Not only was he POTUS post WWII but he was a five-star general that led the Allied Forces in D-Day. A humble man who grew up in Abilene, Kansas, Ike worked hard to live a life both as a husband, father, grandfather and President of the United States with a set of morals, integrity and values that he wanted America to represent. The Eisenhower Presidential Museum captures his life from boyhood to Westpoint to General to President. Currently the Eisenhower Foundation is in the planning stages of modernizing the museum and exhibits. The $2.3 million renovation will open on the 75th anniversary of D-Day — June 6, 2019. For more information, visit us at: www.eisenhowerfoundation.net.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/lehdmdmwgng01.jp

Update 2/21/18: When I came back on reddit this morning, I was thrilled to see all of the new comments. It will take me awhile to get through them, as we have the Kansas Governor signing a bill at the Eisenhower Presidential Library today. Also, some of your great questions are better suited for an archivist -- a telling sign we should ask my archivist colleagues from the Eisenhower Presidential Library if they would be willing to conduct a reddit. Thank you all for your interest in Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Eisenhower Foundation! We appreciate your participation in our first-ever reddit/AMA.

Q:

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?

A:

I've heard it suggested that had a limit on presidential terms not become mandated at 2 at the most, President Eisenhower would have likely easily won a third term.

Would you say that was true?

Did Eisenhower think he could have won a third term had it been an option?


Q:

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!

A:

And for the record, he did play alot of golf. How much? I don't know exactly, but if you want to go through his presidential appointment books, you can get an idea. All of his appointment books are contained in the Eisenhower Presidential Library and are open to the public. You can also check out a few of his appointment books using this link:

https://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/research/online_documents.html

Look for "presidential appointment books." Enjoy!


Q:

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

A:

Would you say that Eisenhower's greatest accomplishment as President was the Interstate Highway System, ending the Korean War, signing the Civil Rights Bill of 1957, or balancing the budget three times?

Would Eisenhower be pretty disgusted with the state of the GOP today?


Q:

Haha. There is no policy against it.

A:

In my opinion, I would say the Interstate Highway System is his greatest accomplishment as President of the United States. The scale of the project and the massive transformation it allowed the United States to undergo is unprecedented. It is really hard to say though…everything you listed is impressive…not to mention NASA, effectively managing to keep the Cold War “cold,” purchasing enough of the Salk Polio vaccine to inoculate every American child… He managed to do a lot in eight years.

When I’m asked to guess as to what Eisenhower would think or how he would feel, I often refer to his many quotes. He once remarked to the Republican State Chairmen, "Some politician some years ago said that bad officials are elected by good voters who do not vote."


Q:

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

A:

Thank you for doing this: Eisenhower was known as a General who did not believe that that former high ranking military personnel should run for office. Why do you think that his view changed between the 1948 and 1952 elections when he decided to run?


Q:

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.

A:

Hi Willaaay- I can't speak to what changed in Ike's mind, but I can tell you that he had no desire to run for public office. It was the American people, through a grassroots effort, that convinced him to run. He was overwhelmingly the people's choice, which resulted in him feeling like it was his civic duty. During the general election of 1952, Eisenhower won 442 electoral votes to Adlai Stevenson's 89 electoral votes.


Q:

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.

A:

What is IKEducation?


Q:

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.

A:

Hi TLBDCO-

IKEducation is the Eisenhower Foundation's innovative K-12 program that serves thousands of students and teachers across Kansas, and beyond, both online and onsite. IKEducation provides not only historical lessons about Dwight D. Eisenhower’s unparalleled accomplishments, it also gives students and teachers insight into life in America during the twentieth century.

The mission of IKEducation is to provide every K-12 student, either online or onsite, with an innovative educational experience that enhances their understanding of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander and 34th President of the United States.

We have lesson plans for elementary age, middle school age and high school age students. They can be found using this link:

http://www.eisenhowerfoundation.net/151/Lesson-Plans

I am proud to report that recently, one of our IKEducation lesson plans was featured in the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidspost/heroic-dog-is-honored-75-years-after-saving-the-lives-of-us-soldiers/2018/01/12/c2e7d952-f176-11e7-b3bf-ab90a706e175_story.html?utm_term=.14dececd1b0c


Q:

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

A:

Why did the Eisenhower Foundation launch IKEducation?


Q:

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.

A:

Hi again, TLBCO-

As the triumphs of World War II and the progress and prosperity of the 1950s become a distant memory for most Americans, today’s students are further removed from the period. Realizing the challenge of sharing this rich history with generations for whom Dwight D. Eisenhower’s lifetime is relatively unknown, the Eisenhower Foundation developed IKEducation.

Since launching in 2013, over 20,000 students and teachers have participated in IKEducation programming. Just last year, IKEducation increased K-12 onsite programming at the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home by 28%, from 6,047 students and teachers during the 2015-16 academic year to 7,753 students and teachers during the 2016-17 academic year.

Obviously, you've heard of IKEducation. Can you tell me how you learned about it?


Q:

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.

A:

Do school groups have to pay to participate in IKEducation?


Q:

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.

A:

No, IKEducation programming and admission to the Eisenhower Presidential Museum are free, thanks to the Eisenhower Foundation's generous donors. In addition, the Eisenhower Foundation actively seeks funding to help schools cover expenses associated with field trips to the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home in Abilene, Kansas.

We also have two programs, Ike's Field Trip Fund and the Dane G. Hansen Field Trip Program, that provide schools with much needed field trip funding. If you would like to help more schools visit the Eisenhower Presidential Campus in Abilene, please visit https://eisenhowerfoundation.net/616/Ikes-Field-Trip-Fund to make a donation.


Q:

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!

A:

How can people get involved in the Eisenhower Foundation?


Q:

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.

A:

Hi Colenecraig- I'm so glad you asked! As I mentioned earlier, the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum is a part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Through NARA, the federal government supports archival, curatorial and security staff, as well as maintenance at the Eisenhower Presidential campus. Exhibit updates, K-12 and public education programs, and community events, however, must be funded through the Eisenhower Foundation.

We're always looking for people to become Friends of the Eisenhower Foundation. Our Friends provide the critical support necessary for our world-class exhibits, programs and events. For more information, and to join the Friends group, use this link:

http://www.eisenhowerfoundation.net/154/Friends-of-the-Foundation


Q:

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

A:

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.


Q:

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

A:

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!


Q:

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?

A:

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.


Q:

What’s your very best life advice?

A:

Sit up straight and face forward.


Q:

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!

A:

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……..


Q:

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!

A:

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


Q:

How is the reception of the Queen going??

A:

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.


Q:

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

A:

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!)


Q:

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

A:

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.


Q:

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

A:

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.


Q:

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

A:

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!


Q:

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

A:

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.


Q:

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.

A:

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!)


Q:

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?

A:

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


Q:

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

A:

Excalibur - John Boorman. Hands down.


Q:

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?

A:

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.


Q:

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.

A:

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!


Q:

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.

A:

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.


Q:

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?

A:

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!)


Q:

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

A:

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.


Q:

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?

A:

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.


Q:

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

A:

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


Q:

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

A:

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.


Q:

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?

A:

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.


Q:

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?

A:

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….