Theatrical jousting

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Jousting performance at the Bristol Renaissance Faire (2006)

Coined in the late 20th century by American stunt performer Kent Shelton, the term theatrical jousting refers to a form of live entertainment in which a medieval jousting tournament is recreated in conjunction with a scripted performance. Alternative terms are "jousting reenactment" or "choreographed jousting".

The Hanlon-Lees Action Theater is credited with developing the theatrical joust format in 1979; its first appearance was at the New York Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, New York. This type of performance has become very popular at various renaissance fairs by the early 2000s.[1]

Typically a three-act affair, the theatrical joust consists of

  1. a display of skill;
  2. a mock battle which results in a verbal challenge;
  3. an armed joust on horseback, often "to the death."

A variety of colorful characters, either villainous or heroic, give the audience (which is usually divided into sectors based upon the number of "knights") a particular person to root for or against.

As the show must be repeated on a daily or weekly basis, all fights are carefully choreographed and rehearsed. Horses must be trained to withstand such peculiarities as the clatter of steel weaponry, the occurrence of a rider being knocked from the saddle, and the roar of large crowds. Special makeup and/or property effects are often incorporated into the performance to provide the illusion of violent death or shattering equipment.


  1. ^ Adams, Michael C. C. (2002). Echoes of War: A Thousand Years of Military History in Popular Culture. University Press of Kentucky. p. x. ISBN 9780813122403. 
  • Leeser, Kevin (2006). Renaissance Men (documentary film), 3 Alarm Carnival Productions.
  • 'Modern-day knight stabbed in brain during jousting re-enactment', Weekly World News, nr. 33, 21 May 1991, p. 4.