Friday, May 10, 2013 | 2 a.m.
The air in the men’s dressing room at “Tournament of Kings” in Excalibur grows thick with the smell of sweat and the piney bite of men’s deodorant as performers file in after the evening’s first show.
While most of the actors pour themselves into their vanity chairs, hunching over smartphones and Dairy Queen dinners during the hour break between shows, performer Thomas Arlt scarfs down his hamburger and reaches for his backpack.
After a night of sword fighting, flame jumping and slaying dragon warriors as Prince Christopher of Avalon, he’s preparing to conquer his biggest foe yet: the SAT.
“Doing the show is definitely harder than high school,” says the 18-year-old Arbor View High senior. “But this is one thing I get to take off and be a teenager for.”
Arlt admits he's a little nervous to take the test, but he's used to juggling his studies with his sword fighting. Every day for nearly two years, Arlt has walked past his classmates heading to after-school clubs and sports practice, hopped into his truck and driven the 45-minute commute from North Las Vegas to the Strip to perform as the youngest cast member in Excalibur’s signature dinner-and-jousting show.
Reclining in faux chain mail and sweatpants, Arlt puts the textbook down to let a wardrobe assistant powder his face to conceal a breakout. Despite some self-conscious fussing with the shoulder-length blond hair he has to have for the show, he’s growing into the boyish good looks that helped land him modeling and acting roles as a child.
When not onstage, he can be found riding horses and practicing for rodeo competitions on the sprawling North Las Vegas ranch he grew up on with his father and stepmother. By his early teens, Arlt’s talents caught the attention of his neighbor Ivan Caulier, stunt coordinator and company manager for “Tournament of Kings.”
“Since Thomas was a little kid, I would see him riding next to my property, and growing up, he was doing very well on the horses. The first time I approached him at 14, he was too young and too short, but, for us, we knew that within a couple of years, we’d need a new Prince Christopher, and he’d be someone we were looking for,” Caulier says.
When Arlt was 16, a position opened as a ground fighter, and he jumped at the opportunity to combine his two favorite hobbies of acting and riding horses. He eventually moved on to the roles of the kings of Spain, Norway and France, most recently stepping into the lead hero role of King Arthur’s son, Prince Christopher.
“I’m kind of known as a celebrity at school,” he says with a bashful giggle. “They call me ‘King Thomas.’ ”
Still, performing two shows a night six nights a week leaves Arlt with little time to bask in the limelight of the high school social scene, and he admits that the job hasn’t come without its sacrifices. Squeezing in homework and studying between and after shows has become routine, as has getting up early to take care of household chores.
He fits in afternoon visits to a chiropractor three times per week (a product of falling off his horse multiple times per night), and dates with his girlfriend are often limited to renting movies when he ends work at 11 p.m. on weekends. Arlt says he runs on about five hours of sleep per night.
“Sometimes I do regret it in terms of missing out on doing regular high school stuff and hanging out with people senior year,” he says, adding that the show has been flexible about letting him attend prom and other capstone events. “But it’s really a release for me. I love the adrenaline rush from fighting and falling. I love seeing the little kids smile and I love making sure they’re having a good time.”
Arlt says his June 8 graduation will be bittersweet, but he is looking forward to the flexibility he’ll have in his schedule before starting at UNLV next year, where he’ll begin to pursue his dream of becoming an anesthesiologist.
“It’ll be nice to be able to sleep in,” he jokes, adding that save for the odd spat with his dad over making time for chores, his family has been very supportive of his work on the show.
But for now, he still has plenty to keep him busy. In the remaining minutes before showtime, performers pull on their costumes and head down to the barn where the horses are still warming up. Arlt joins them while they wait, his sword in one hand, an SAT prep book in the other.
"Tournament of Kings" runs Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 6 and 8:30 p.m. and Mondays and Fridays at 6 p.m.; the show is dark Tuesdays. For tickets and more information, visit the Excalibur website.
A myriad of entertainment, enjoyable food and comfortable accommodations make for an inviting atmosphere within the castle walls at Excalibur.
The resort offers 3,981 guest rooms, dozens of shops, an expansive pool complex, a wedding chapel featuring Medieval costume ceremonies, the relaxing Spa at Excalibur and a convention area with more than 12,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space.
Excalibur also is home to a wide range of dining and entertainment experiences including the fresh, Italian fare of Buca di Beppo, Dick’s Last Resort, The Steakhouse at Camelot, the Tournament of Kings dinner show, the all-male revue Thunder From Down Under and the sounds of The Australian Bee Gees.