From waxing Elizabethan to unhorsing his colleagues—it’s all in a day’s work for this modern jouster. David Schade, lieutenant and assistant trainer at Warhorse Productions’ “New Riders of the Golden Age,” explains why his team’s visit to the Las Vegas Renaissance Festival is more than a barrel of broken lances.
What does it take to be a 21st century knight?
Probably some serious mental issues and some social issues. I always laugh because I get pro bull riders looking at us going, you guys are out of your frickin’ minds. But one, I see where the hit is coming from. And the thing I’m riding isn’t going to try to kill me when I get off.
Is it like NASCAR?
I’d like to think that it’s a little more sophisticated, but I suppose not, when you’ve got two idiots wearing trash cans running at each other with horses. Especially the run of this year, there have been some serious train wrecks here where guys are getting blasted left and right. Although we get up and we gotta keep on goin’. We got a show to do.
- Age of Chivalry
- October 5-7
- Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
- Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Silver Bowl Park, 455-8200
What was it like the first time you put the armor on, got on the horse and used the lance?
I think it was the Friday before the last weekend of a show. I went out there with one of the guys I was training with, and the head jouster at that time, Greg. He’s like, “All right, you guys are gonna do some dry lance passes.” So we did three dry passes where we weren’t looking to contact. We were just looking to pass each other. And he’s like, “You wanna hit him?” So we hit each other and I blew the kid over the ropes. But my balance was wrong and I didn’t know how to correct it, and I kind of oozed out of the saddle and hit the ground. I pretty much thought it was the coolest thing ever.
What you want is for the lance to break.
Yeah. Because if you break your lance and you break it good in the center, that kind of shows that I hit him solidly and with strength. And then if you unhorse the guy, fantastic.
You’re doing something pretty dangerous. How do you live like that day to day?
Usually injuries occur when somebody falls off or gets knocked off and they forget themselves. Like, a common mistake for new guys especially, they reach out with their hands and try to catch themselves on the way down. ... We do what’s called “break falls.” You just pull in all your extremities and tuck your chin and exhale as you’re hitting the ground so you don’t totally knock the wind out of yourself.
Do you think there were fat knights—big boys, historically speaking?
We actually had a guy sign on with us last year, and when he signed on he was a big fat guy. I want to say he was like 340. ... I kind of explained to him, look, you have a long, hard road because you need to lose a lot of that weight. Not because we don’t like fat people, but because falling from six feet up, five feet up, and hitting the ground, all that extra weight actually can cause injury. But to his credit, he lost over 100 pounds.
Who are these jousters?
I would say there’s the common denominator of, everybody’s a bit of a nerd. There’s fantasy novels and video games. We’re probably one of the tamest jousting troops out there because we don’t cause trouble. ... I’ve seen other teams where their head guy is so pissed off if he’s doing bad, or threatens his guys if he gets knocked off.
Tell us about the Elizabethan accent.
People don’t want to hear Shakespearean presentation when they’re seeing a joust. I’ve learned to flavor my language with period words and period inflections, but still every now and then use things that I heard in pop culture to just keep the audience with me. They’re not sitting, going, diatribe?! I don’t know what diatribe means!
Did you ever suspect this would be your calling?
I’m very lucky that my mother was baby boomer generation and my grandfather was former Army Air Corps. So I had really good exposure to a lot of things from the ’30s and ’40s. Like Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn later on ... I grew up on these swashbuckling movies. I thought they were the greatest things ever. I never envisioned myself being one of them.