The Orange County Register
By Serena Maria Daniels
BUENA PARK -- Clanging swords, jousting with wooden poles and then throwing them at bull's-eye targets.
Practices, and performances, are loud in Medieval Times' indoor arena.
But not for senior knight James Magill, 39, who lives in Anaheim and is an 11-year veteran at the themed dinner theater on Beach Boulevard. He is largely deaf.
"You have to use your eyes," he said.
Once show time starts, horses gallop by with Spanish knights. Squires, on foot, hand their knights the weapons. There is little room for error.
But only once did Magill get struck rather hard by a weapon.
Magill, who usually wears a hearing aid that gives him 80 percent hearing, was teased as a child for his disability. That bothered him then. Now, he doesn't view himself much differently than other people; everyone has their small differences.
"James is a big kid,'' said head knight David Hilliard, 31. "He loves the job, because he gets to roll around and play with swords. He's totally immersed in the medieval lifestyle.''
Enamored by all things medieval, Magill even makes body armor of that era for enthusiasts.
Medieval Times patrons are unaware of his hearing loss -- unless he knows a group of deaf people are in the stands.
He then turns to the crowd, while in the saddle, and signs what is going on in the play.
"I think it's great -- it's really a pleasure being able to sign in a show," Magill said.
During a special matinee in March, in front of 1,000 middle schoolers from Southern California learning about history, Magill signed: In the crowd were 21 students from the California School for the Deaf in Riverside.
For much of the show, the kids were kids -- turning away from the action, gossiping among themselves.
But when Magill signed, they focused on the show.
"I didn't really understand everything, but I love history and horses, so I knew what was going on," said Maj Lesti, 13, through a sign-language interpreter. "I wouldn't mind living here."
The kids give back to Magill, too.
"He feels a connection to them," Hilliard said. "He grew up not having all his hearing, so he likes to help out as much as he can."