Most men could only hope to be dubbed a knight in shining armor. For 23-year-old Clint Mally, it's simply a job description.
For the past six years, Mally has been swinging his sword and galloping into battle while playing a knight at Medieval Times in Lawrenceville. This dinner theater transports audiences into an ancient realm, adding a bit of realism by encouraging them to eat with their hands.
Guests nosh on their meals as Mally and company fuse athletic performance and theatricality while presenting a new just-out-of-the-box show. All of the familiar and popular aspects of Medieval Times are in tact. You're guaranteed plenty of swordplay, live jousting, horses and even a trained falcon soaring above.
Yet, Mally's eyes twinkle when describing the latest production, one that promises a fresh storyline, newly designed costumes, a relay competition, a bad guy's debut and more.
The new show obviously helps keep things fresh for Mally. But the performer said he's learned how to remain exhilarated each time he steps onto the battlefield.
"One thing that keeps the show exciting for me is being able to look through the eyes of the audience," said Mally, who is from Lawrenceville. "So no matter if you've had a bad day at home or if your car broke down on the way, all of these people are maybe seeing you and the show for the first time. And I have to leave it all behind the curtain when I come out."
For Mally this means becoming his character. Ironically, his career at Medieval Times has been filled with his own character growth.
His time at Mill Creek High in Hoschton was looking dismal. The product of a broken home, he was a drug-addled teenager without boundaries, he said, until a concerned family took him in. Mally credits Pastor Scott Bull and family for saving him from a troubled life.
"All of my friends from high school are in jail, have felonies or kids out of wedlock," he said. "It could've gone either way with me."
With the Bull family's support, the avid athlete was able to continue to keep his grades up enough to play sports. Mally eventually "barely" graduated in 2007, but his grades weren't good enough to score a college scholarship.
He began waiting tables, a job he admits he just wasn't cut out for. When a group of Medieval Times honchos came in to the restaurant where Mally was working, they saw something in him. With his athletic build, bubbly personality and high school theatrical background, Mally had the makings of a knight.
"I quit my job that day," Mally said, "and I've been doing it ever since."
Mally joined Medieval Times as a squire, the lowest position available. He spent time during the shows scooping horse poop and delivering knights their weapons. Although it takes most squires six months to a year and a half to enter knight training, Mally became a knight after three months.
He found himself being indoctrinated into what he calls "the brotherhood" of Medieval Times. According to Mally, the knight performers forge tight friendships. He likens it to a sports team that spends 40 hours a week together.
The swords they swing are real. This requires the knights to look out for each other's safety, while making the other performer look as good as possible during a show.
"When you have that kind of dynamic, it's impossible not to grow some affection for your friends," Mally said.
Mally also grew affection for the woman who became his wife, Sabina, a Russian expatriate who's been working as a waitress at Medieval Times since the castle first opened. And it was during this tenure that Mally began growing spiritually, too.
While working his way through college as a biblical studies major at what is now Point University, he met a professor, Jim Street, who is a pastor at North River Community Church, located near Medieval Times. Street became Mally's mentor. And although Mally never wanted to become a pastor in a paid capacity, Street offered him an assistant pastor position at his church.
So on Sunday mornings Mally steps out of the castle arena and into the pulpit. His job at Medieval Times allows him the freedom to work for the church as an assistant pastor free of charge. Mally is dedicating his spare time to putting the finishing touches on his first novel while his wife attends graduate school.
Despite his writing aspirations, Mally said he's quite content wearing that shining armor as long as possible. When talking about his love and devotion to the Medieval Times corporation, Mally gets choked up.
"They took this 18-year-old kid, who was by no means perfect, and formed me into a person who could actually have a family," he said.
Check Website for show times. $39.95-$51.95 adults; $24.95-$35.95 children ages 12 and younger. Medieval Times at Discover Mills, 5900 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville. 888-935-6878, www.medievaltimes.com.