MEET THE TOURNAMENT OF KINGS CAST
Applause came early in life to Zack Moyes and it forged his future. He sang Heartbreak Hotel, complete with a classic Elvis hip shake, in the doctor's office when he was three. He moved on to staging plays and acrobatic performances in his home during grade school. Zack took second place in the Las Vegas Channel 8 News test on current events. At twelve, he opened a concession stand called the CafÃ© Cantada during soccer and baseball games at Black Mountain Recreation Center and at16 he launched a movie career as Cousin Denny in National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation with Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo. Along the way, he became an Eagle Scout and went on a mission to Australia for the Mormon Church. Soon after his return from Australia, he began working at the Playboy Mansion. Kelsey Grammar and Michael Keaton invited him to party with them and Grammar recommended Zack for the butler position at the Mansion because of his gregarious nature.
But Vegas is home and Zack returned to become part of a premier marketing team for U.S Marketing and Promotion. He got involved in the personal growth and development movement, which became a consuming passion. As a result of years of study, Zack put together a 54 minute video and wrote a book called Quantum Attitude: Understanding Wealth and Desire, which is sold on Amazon.com. Zack spent a year learning the body/brain relationship. He said there are three key components that must come from a place of acceptance and understanding: love, gratitude, and doing your best in any given situation. There are two primary paths Zach wants to follow in the future: Acting and sharing the message of growth and development via a vehicle like Ted Talks--in addition to his role as an understudy for the show villain, Mordred, played by Antonio Restivo..
As a member of the Tournament of Kings cast for a year, with performances in 100 shows, Zack enjoys his co-workers and interacting with the audience. As an understudy to Anthony, Zack feels the role of Mordred offers unique challenges because of all the pyro effects. "You can feel the power of the flame. The roar of the fire and the heat combine to make a pressure you feel in your chest. Anthony taught me various techniques and above all ultimate respect for fire."
"Performing with the cast of Tournament of Kings is awesome. One memorable night, we lost the sound track and a horrible buzzing noise was coming from the speakers. Ivan was running into the arena at full tilt, trying to figure out how to keep the show going," Zack recalled.
"I took the Andalusian segment out because the horses know the musical score. Without hearing the music, a horse might have missed a cue and stepped on one of the dancers," said Ivan Caulier, show manager and stunt coordinator Zack continued, "The audience knew the sound had gone out but they were cheering the cast on. It was really inspiring to see the performers come together in spite of what would normally have stopped a show."
"All the cast stayed in character. I was really surprised because most performers are not professionals with a show business background. They have to learn even the most basic show business principles, like respecting their costumes. The sound mysteriously came back on for the finale and we finished the show. I was proud of every performer, including the horses, that night," added Ivan.
Zack said his life goal is to be of service to others and to strive to be the best he can be every day. "Performing in Tournament of King's as Antonio's replacement on his days off has opened a new chapter in my life. I'm learning new skills, developing new friendships and loving every minute of this experience."
The medieval King of Spain's life would pale in significance compared to the day-to-day existence of Native American Tournament of Kings stuntman and actor, Derek Hinkey. Born on the Paiute/Shoshone reservation on the Oregon-Nevada border, Hinkey learned horsemanship from the time he was a toddler. His childhood was spent on a ranch, where his family raised Black Angus cattle. As a child, a horse tossed him into a field and its hoof left an impression in Hinkey's chest–which he can feel to this day.
His brother, Tyler, noticed an advertisement for stuntmen/riders for Tournament of Kings. Since he'd been breaking colts for his dad since his teens, Hinkey decided to audition. Ivan Caulier, show manager and stunt coordinator, watched him ride around the ring a few times, where his horsemanship was evident as was the bond between horse and rider. "You look for an aura, and watch how the horse reacts to the rider. It has to be a team effort to pull off the tight choreography of stunts, falls and swordsmanship. You get a sense for what is inside a guy and whether or not he'll fit in with the group," said Caulier. When Hinkey told his dad he got the job in Tournament of Kings and described what he'd be doing–his father quipped, "Now you're going to fall off a horse, after all the years I spent teaching you to stay on one!"
He began his boxing career early in life. In 2004, he was a member of the U.S. Elite Boxing Team earning the position as a top contender on the Western Olympic Boxing team. Hinkey fought professionally in Mixed Martial Arts competitions, but a hand injury that never healed properly slowed his MMA career.
Today, among other achievements, Hinkey is a professional prize fighter. While fighting as an amateur, he racked up an impressive 132 wins and 13 losses and 9-1 record after he turned pro. In a recent interview with John Tandy of TitleBoxing.com, Hinkey was asked how he would describe himself as a boxer. "I have Rocky Balboa's heart, Apollo Creed's boxing skill, Ivan Drago's punch, and Clubber Lang's toughness." He has also been a training sparring partner for some of the best boxers and fighters in the UFC, as well as devoting time to being instructor and coach at Cobra Kai Jujitsu.
As a man who is proud of his Native American heritage, he said part of what drives him is the honor and happiness he brings to his family and native people. Hinkey added, "My story is really the story of a small town and the Paiute/Shoshone peoples. I would not be who I am without my community. My hope is to restore hope and a belief in themselves." His life goals include, "... learning as much as I can so I can take back that knowledge to my reservation and continue to try and help the next generation."
It's not often you find a native born Las Vegan in a town peopled with transplants from around the world. Garrett Parris grew up in an environment far different than the megaresort capital this city has become. After graduating from Bonanza High School, he enrolled at UNLV. To fund his schooling, Parris landed a job in the original King Arthur's Tournament as the keyboardist in the three-piece band. In 1993, live music was the standard at Strip hotels. In addition to paying his tuition, it fueled his passion for music.
At that time, King Arthur's Tournament included a trick rider act, which featured a real cute girl that caught his eye. So Parris got up the nerve to ask Ivan Caulier, show manager and stunt coordinator, if he could learn to be a knight while simultaneously mastering trick riding and practicing with the troupe. Always one to encourage young men with a love of physical action–Caulier let Parris train for the part. "It was a lot harder than it looked and some of the most physically demanding and complex work I've ever done. I trained every day for a year–real hard–while I was still playing in the band," Parris recalled. Caulier was impressed with Parris' natural ability with horses so he utilized him as a "fill-in" knight, a role he played for five years. At one point, Parris held three positions in King Arthur's Tournament: Keyboardist, trick rider and the King of Hungary.
In 1999, his love of music demanded Parris follow his heart to Nashville, the center of the country music industry. To keep body and soul together, Parris worked as a valet at the Opry Land Hotel and performed with King Arthur's Tournament during vacation breaks. He transferred all his credits from UNLV and Colorado University and enrolled in Middle Tennessee State University, where he graduated with a BS in Recording Industry/Mass Communications. It was a 60-mile round trip to school and back, but it was all worth it when he landed a dream internship in the A&R (Artists and Repertoire) department at Sony Records.
For the next six years, he wrote and produced songs for Magic Mustang Music, the publishing arm of Broken Bow Records. The famous country group, Lone Star, recorded one of the songs he co-wrote, "What She Had To Do." Parris experienced the full music spectrum in Nashville, from producing and engineering to co-writing Lee Brice's first record, "Four On The Floor." He went on to produce and perform with Crossin' Dixon, a group he traveled with for three years.
After 13 years in the music industry, Parris decided to return to Las Vegas. He looked up Caulier just to let him know he was back in town. Caulier immediately offered him his old job back as the King of Hungry. "Parris has a gift for being on stage. The arena requires a strong performance and the fights are athletic events as demanding as soccer or football. I knew he'd get right back into it–and he gives a convincing performance every time. I can count on Parris, and the younger cast members look up to him," Caulier said. "While I'm glad to be back in Vegas close to my family, I'll still create music the rest of my life. It's at the core of my being but I love Tournament of Kings, the cast, the crew and the horses," added Parris.
In December 2001, King Arthur's Tournament closed and two weeks later Tournament of Kings opened. "It might be the fastest show turnaround of all time," said Caulier. "King Arthur's Tournament was a well-oiled machine. Both actors and horses knew their parts. Sometimes the horses knew their parts better than the men riding them. One evening a horse and knight were awaiting their cue off stage. Apparently, the knight was thinking about something else because when the trumpet sounded, the horse took off and left the knight sitting in the dirt. The horse continued on, performing his role flawlessly and returned to his stall as the music faded. The knight took a lot of ribbing from fellow cast members for months afterward," Caulier laughed.
Mark Ward was born in the Bronx but grew up in Westchester County, New York. Like most kids, he grew up with dreams but Ward's dreams took him down a road less traveled. He didn't want to be like Superman, he wanted to BE Superman. Ward worked hard at developing a strong physique and unique physical agility. He set his sights on becoming a professional wrestler and headed to Louisville, Kentucky, home of the WWE Developmental Territory. After two years on the Ohio Valley Wrestling, Ward headed to Las Vegas because he had a friend living in the city and figured it was on the way to LA, his ultimate destination to pursue an acting career.
He got a job as a centurion at Caesars Palace and, before long, a friend told him to go to an audition for Tournament of Kings. Ivan Caulier, show manager and stunt coordinator for TOK, interviewed Ward and hired him on the spot as one of the "muscle men" in the show. TOK allowed him to attend auditions in LA and he spent a lot of time on the road. "It wasn't unusual to get in my car and drive to LA, attend a couple of auditions, and drive back to Vegas in time to perform in the show. I was used to a lot of driving when I worked the wrestling circuit because matches were usually in a different city every night." Caulier said he worked with a stunt double on The Three Musketeers in France by the name of Christophe Malavoy. "This guy worked in acting for 10 years before he got a break. Christophe survived eating one sandwich a day and was a minute away from quitting altogether. But he got one small part and his performance was great. That part led to something bigger, and his career snowballed from there. Now he's one of the major stars in France. Never give up–you don't know what big break is right around the corner," Caulier advised Ward.
After two years, the lure of LA and an acting career called him to take the plunge full time. "I'm an all-in kind of guy. I decided I had to give it my full best effort. I made up my mind. I didn't want to be one of those guys who lamented 'What if I had done this or what if I had done that?' I did whatever it took to keep my name out there. I landed a manager who really worked the system for me. He even secured a guest star role in Modern Family. My character was a drug dealer in a courtroom. It was great experience and I loved every minute but most of my performance ended up on the cutting room floor–but I still get residuals and met some great people," he said.
Ward still actively pursues acting and dabbles in wrestling. "I just can't give it up all together. Performing in front of a live crowd is the greatest thrill in the world. I even tried my hand at stand-up comedy without a script for Garrett Morris' Open Mike Nite in LA. A friend who was taking an improv class with me said I needed to give it a try. Several of us decided we'd go and see what it was like. Because of that night several classmates changed direction and are now active on the comedy circuit. It's the sound of an audience shouting and cheering that gets in your blood. Performing in front of live audiences helped wean me off the wrestling high," Ward added.
Today, Ward also teaches wrestling to young people anxious to break into the business. "Most of what I do is teach them character development and how to deliver a believable performance. You have to sell a move–the crowd has to believe you," he cautioned. Vic D.Vine is his wrestling persona: One-Of-A-Kind Vic D.Vine and So Fine Vic D.Vine are his stage descriptors. "Vic is an arrogant bad guy. I like bad guys, they are more fun." Then there are the wrestling groupies. "Ring Rats" is the affectionate term for them," Ward chuckled, "Sometimes, you send them home with a good story to tell." Ward confidently added, "Passion for something is a requirement if you're going to make the long haul. Wrestling prepared me for the harder side of life. It's all about the associations with people you meet along the way."
Mordred, the very name sends shivers down the spine of anyone who knows the legend of King Arthur. A prominent character in the Arthurian legend, Mordred is known as a notorious traitor and his name is forever associated with villainy. Onto this stage, with roots going back to medieval times, steps Antonio Restivo playing the role of Mordred, maligned throughout history as the traitor who dealt King Arthur a mortal blow.
His love affair and fascination with fire began with a random accident. At age 8, he accidently burned down his best friend's backyard fort and the fire consumed six acres of brush. His mother took the incident in stride since no one was hurt, but Restivo was hooked on fire for life. He grew up in Brooklyn, went to high school in Ft. Lauderdale, and attended college at Franklin Pierce University in southwest New Hampshire, where he graduated with a degree in theater and philosophy. And that's the point in his life where the adventure began.
After graduation, he lived a gypsy lifestyle traveling around the country in a van. He earned his way as a traveling one-man carnival. When an area took his fancy, he'd stop, pitch a tent and put on a magic and fire show. After the performance, he taught kids how to spin fire for free just because he loved to introduce them to an amazing skill.
Then, eight years ago fate stepped in. He was working for a publication geared for Las Vegas entertainers called Call Back. As chance would have it, Tournament of Kings placed an ad for a fire breather. Restivo stopped by Royal Productions and met with producer, Patrick Chambon-Jackson. Several ideas were discussed to add a new element to the show. "It was a gamble and we didn't know if we could find the right person for what we had in mind but one conversation with Antonio and we knew we'd hit the jackpot," said Ivan Caulier, show manager and stunt coordinator.
The pyrotechnics in the show utilize the unique talents of a group of friends self-titled "Brotherhood of the Flame." It took them four years to perfect the show sequence where Prince Christopher is surrounded by a group of Dragon Warriors in a circle of fire. Shields are placed in the dirt on the arena floor, where they are controlled by a wireless device. "A live show creates strong elements of danger. Performers can never become complacent. There is no margin for error. We have extras trained to jump in and continue on with the show if something goes wrong," Restivo explained.
His favorite prop is the trident which can shoot 18' of fire across the stage. He wears a backpack filled with fuel under his costume. "When I aim the trident and pull the trigger, it feels like an ocean of fire racing toward my target. All fire sequences are carefully choreographed. I have to stand on my mark and the other actor has to hit his mark at the precise moment the flame hits its maximum length. It's always a dance with fire and the slightest loss of concentration can have dire consequences."
His theater background prepared him to play the role of Mordred with the perfect blend of villainy and swashbuckling bravado. The costume cape sways with all the menace of Darth Vader and his maniacal laugh as King Arthur is mortally wounded chilling audiences over ten performances, six nights a week. "Keeping the cast tightly choreographed with their part in the pyro sequences is a demanding part of the show. There are so many moving parts, with multiple actors performing numerous functions it can be hair-raising when fire is added to the mix. We work on the pyro techniques constantly to keep actors sharp an on top of their game," Caulier commented.
"The thing I love about Tournament of Kings is they are open to new and expanded ideas. Whatever I can think of they are willing to try out. It keeps me invigorated and always thinking about the newest challenge. Tournament of Kings will never get old and audiences keep coming back just to see the new elements in the show," Antonio laughed with a hint of Mordred just beneath the surface.
Restivo also currently holds the Guinness World Record for the highest flame blown by a fire breather. On January 11, 2011, he rented a warehouse and spit fire 26' 5" to the ceiling. He prepared for the event by blowing up the long, thin balloons used by clowns–in one breath! He was also a finalist in the magic and fire category in 2010 on America's Got Talent.
When the magnificent Andalusian bay stallion enters the Tournament of Kings arena, an audible gasp arises from the audience. Surrounded by eight classically trained dancers in full medieval themed gowns, Nobilisimo takes his first regal steps in what is commonly referred to as “Horse Ballet”.
Nobilisimo is descended from horses that originated in the Andalusian region of Spain. An ancient breed, the Andalusian is thought to be the inspiration for the horse pictured in cave dwellings in Lascaux, France, which are over 20,000 years old. Homer penned the Illiad in 1,100 BC and described a horse that fits the size and characteristics of an Andalusian.
In the Middle Ages, the Andalusian was prized by European nobility for its ability to learn and even temperament. Hannibal utilized this large horse, along with elephants, to cross the Alps when he invaded Italy in 218 B.C. Richard the Lionhearted, King of England, and many of his knights rode the Andalusian into battle during the Crusades. Sir Walter Scott paid tribute to this noble horse in his classic novel, Ivanhoe. Cortez brought them to the New World and North American breeds such as the Quarter Horse and Morgan carry the bloodline of this ancient breed. Eighty percent of all modern breeds carry the DNA of the “Spanish” horse. Although a devastating plague nearly wiped them out during the Middle Ages, the popularity of the Andalusian is once again on the rise.
Prized for strength, agility, and beauty they are so strong and agile they can be trained to do amazing things, such as dressage. Dressage is a French term commonly translated as “training”. Classical dressage evolved from cavalry training for the battlefield. The high stepping in-place movement originated to keep a horse alert, warm and moving--ready to charge into battle a moment’s notice.
Patrick Chambon-Jackson, Producer, wanted to incorporate an Andalusian into the show. He was looking for a horse that would command attention that added a WOW factor. The hunt was on for a horse that had personality and presence, but was also calm enough to deal with lights, pyrotechnics and sword fights. Patrick flew to the south of France to scout for “the Andalusian” as well as having his team research possible local prospects.
The original owners of Nobilisimo sent Tournament of Kings production office a video tape of his performance capabilities. Everyone at Royal Productions agreed this horse had showmanship. The team flew to California to give Nobilisimo a “test ride.” No stranger to performing, as the star of parades and exhibitions, Nobilisimo was a crowd pleaser. Although Nobilisimo had several years of dressage training prior to his arrival at TOK, the team faced a big challenge in getting him accustomed to all the action in the show. Patrick had Ivan Caulier, his company manager and stunt coordinator, work with Jose Luis Flores, the horse trainer, to teach the horse to stay calm when the audience cheers, pounds the tables, knights duel, and fire fills the arena.
It’s not often someone can claim the circus came to town and it changed their life, but that’s exactly what happened to Arturo Figueroa. As the irrepressible jester in Tournament of Kings, Arturo said he sneaked into the world famous Circus Surez and watched the Peruvian clown, Poroto Bun, whose performance as the lead clown opened his eyes to the future. “I knew at that moment I wanted to be a comedian. I approached him and asked if I could join the circus to study his techniques—I was only thirteen at the time. At first, I concentrated on what was happening back stage. I wanted to understand everything it took to put on a good show—not what the performers were doing. After touring with Poroto a little while, my parents told me I had to come home and finish high school. After I graduated they said they’d support me in anything I wanted to do,” Arturo reflected.
As soon as he lived up to the promise to his parents, Arturo joined Circus Tihany. While performing with this troupe, he was discovered by a scout from Ringling Brothers and hired for a special engagement in Japan. Always searching for ways to expand his comedic skills, Arturo then joined an acrobatic comedy team. Here he perfected the art of the pratfall and honed his physical comedy skills. For about a year Arturo performed in Quebec, Canada at Parc Safari in the Theater Place d’Afrique.
Ringling soon called again and Arturo returned for another two year gig that had him traveling all across America. His experience began to form the foundation of a comedic philosophy combining his innate ability to “read” fellow performers as well as gauge the mood of mercurial audiences. “Physical comedy is hard work. You have to make it look natural and unplanned. By now, I had been working in circuses for ten years. I understood what it takes to improvise. You can feel audience reaction and that lets you know on an intuitive level whether you need to pull a sight gag or play off a seemingly unsuspecting fellow performer. You learn to express thoughts and feelings with a wink, eyes that are big and round in surprise, a finger pointed at another cast member that is rude or sympathetic—every gesture and facial expression makes fun of someone for the benefit of the audience at the expense of the performer,” Arturo explained, “the audience gets to be in on the joke.”
In 1997 he teamed up with French-born magician/comedian Kevin James. Known for several unique magical effects, such as the “floating rose”, which is performed by David Copperfield, the team of James and Figueroa also proved to be a bit of inspired magic. The two headed for Europe and performed in such places as the Crazy Horse salon in Paris, as well as a Royal Command Performance for Prince Rainier III of Monaco. The tour continued through Korea, Japan, China and South America, where he was a special guest in the Miss Chile pagent.
Another turn of luck for Arturo happened in 2003. Ivan Caulier, show manager and stunt coordinator for Tournament of Kings, approached him in a Las Vegas gym. “I was performing at the old Sahara Hotel and Casino at the time with Kevin James,” Arturo said.
“I just had a sense about Arturo fitting in with the show,” Ivan explained. “The role of the Jester requires a lot of improvisational ability. The Jester is the trickster, the one who can get away with anything, like thumbing his nose at a Dragon Warrior and living to tell the tale. It didn’t take many performances to know Arturo had just the right chemistry with both audiences and cast members. His role is the only one in the show that is not tightly scripted. He knows just how much freedom he has—and if the audience reacts to something funny he creates spontaneously—we keep it in the show,” Ivan explained.
“In my opinion,” explained Arturo, “talent is 50% experience and 50% luck. I’m never afraid to try something. Working with a good company adds spice to the mix. A new performer can spark an idea. You can never stop learning or looking for a fresh approach to an old experience,” he added.
As for the future, Arturo says he’d still like to pursue the dream he had in the beginning, before he became a performer. “Someday, I’d like to be behind the scenes, making the show go on, encouraging performers to give their all, and learning something new along the way,” he said with a Jester-like twinkle in his eye.