If you thought your office was stuck in the Dark Ages, you haven't met Victoria Militello. Every night, she dons a corset and hauls trays of roasted chicken to the jeering fans who have gathered to see their knight rise to glory — or die trying.
She races up and down flights of stairs, rushing to serve 35-40 people at a time their dragon's blood soup, chicken, corn, and potatoes, and refill tall steins with that renowned nectar of the royals, Pepsi. This is Medieval Times at Lyndhurst, New Jersey, and it's a world Militello's become enchanted with. She initially applied to be a server at the dinner theater because the money was good, and someone had recommended the job. Six years later, it's her home away from home, where her co-workers have become so close two are her bridesmaids and one's her best man at her wedding this month.
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"We are like a family," she said, waving to a lord eating Burger King in the break room.
Medieval Times' New Jersey castle is one of nine across the country, where — just like Cable Guy depicted — guests don paper crowns and sit at long tables encircling an arena, watching knights vie for their king's favor. True to the time period, there are no forks or spoons, but (in an act of anachronistic mercy) there are wet naps for cleaning your sticky fingers and air conditioning to get you through a summer joust.
Attendance hasn't really changed, despite the popularity of Game Of Thrones in recent years. It seems more tied to the seasons: summers are frantic, the holidays are packed with parties.
"If it's a sold-out show, there will be 1,300 screaming guests in the arena," Militello said.
Militello skips the gym on work days; zigzagging through the aisles of the arena while lifting heaping steam trays full of food is basically CrossFit for wenches.
"It's very physically demanding," she explained.
There's also a theatrical aspect to it. Militello's favorite part of the night is pulling on a floor-sweeping robe and heading to the sand-covered center of the arena, where the knights joust. There's a portion of the show, early on, where the wenches carry flags across the field, shouting to their tables to get them riled up. It gets her riled up, too.
"It's one of my favorite parts of the show," Militello said. "[The guests] see their server down there, and they get super excited."
She's not just a server; she's an entertainer, and she's got to be good at juggling tasks while hitting her cues and avoiding distractions, like the falcon that often whizzes overhead.
"I have had one of the falcons literally just go right over my head, and I would duck on the floor," she said of her early days. Now, they don't faze her.
The performance becomes such a part of her life that it's hard to shake, even when she's far from the castle off Highway 3.
"I was at a wedding, handing out programs, and I kept saying 'right this way, my lords and ladies' to everyone," she laughed. "I'll open doors for people without thinking and do it too."
Ye olde habits die hard, it seems.
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