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Becoming Sir Brom: From mining town to jousting stadiums

Jarrod Listiak, AKA Sir Brom, has spent the past 22 years as a professional jouster on the Renaissance Faire circuit. Photo by Jeff Lasich

Jarrod Listiak is old school in ways that not many people can claim to be.

For more than two decades, Listiak has made a living as a professional jouster, working Renaissance Fairs throughout the country and in Europe, but sees himself as the last of a dying breed.

“I’m the crusty old veteran,” Listiak says. “Most people aren’t in it for longevity. We are not that kind of a culture: We’re a throwaway instant dopamine hit….”

Listiak enjoying some downtime between fairs. Photo by LCGross

He’s been knocked off horses with lances, had his shoulders “blasted” and was even stabbed in the face with a dagger once. Despite the wear and tear on his 40-something body though, he still has a passion for performance in a field that combines aspects of professional sports with the work of a movie stuntman.

While many younger people get into it to say they have done it, he estimates that most jousters have a shelf-life of three to five years, but that is how long it takes to learn the basics and hone the craft, he says.

“There’s so much to learn. You’re multitasking while you’re riding a horse, and doing all these other things,” Listiak says. “In order to really start getting good and becoming competent, it takes three or four or five years, depending on how much of the year you spend doing it.”

From Top of the World to Mallorca, Spain

Jarrod Listiak grew up on horses at his home in Top of the World, just
west of Globe. Courtesy photo

Listiak’s 22-year career had relatively humble beginnings. His family moved to Top of the World when he was in second grade. He attended school in Miami, beginning at Central Heights School, then to Las Lomas and Bullion Plaza schools, finally moving on to Lee Kornegay and Miami High School.

As youths, Listiak and his younger sister Jessica—who was Miss Copper Dust one year at the Copper Dust Stampede Rodeo and was named Miss Rodeo Arizona in 2002—were involved in 4-H, showing hogs, horses, lambs and even a cat. They also owned a horse in “the wilds” of Top of the World, so working with livestock became second nature.

But Listiak was never content to lead a life behind a desk or in what would be considered a “normal” profession.

“I was always a little bit of an odd duck, doing my own thing growing up,” he says.

He graduated high school in 1998, but by then was already on his way to fulfilling his calling as a medieval knight astride whatever trusty steed he was provided.

On a lark, Listiak’s parents went to the first Arizona Renaissance Fair in 1988 and were so impressed, they went back with their two young children in tow. From there, they returned every year, particularly drawn to jousting because of the family’s affinity for horses and rodeo.

“We would go to watch the horses and the horsemanship. It was something completely different from the Globe-Miami culture,” Listiak says. “Mom and dad always tried to take us places and expose us to as many different things as they could, thinking they’d give us a more rounded life.”

In 1997, Listiak heard about a casting call in Tucson for the movie “The Postman,” and his sister and her “rodeo friends” dragged him along.

He was skeptical about getting a role, but a few weeks after, received a call offering him a part as an extra in the movie. He asked for permission to get out of school but the principal said no.

“I told him I’m doing something positive with my life,” Listiak says. “It’s a great experience nobody else has had, so you can kick me out of school if you want, but I’m going to do it.”

Filming took place at Duval Mine south of Tucson and for two weeks, Listiak bummed around the set between filming. When he returned to school, he found the school paper had written an article about his adventure, so in the end he was able to get away with it.

His entry into the world of Renaissance came while he was working on the set in Tucson. There would often be hours or sometimes a full day between filming, so Listiak whiled away the idle hours juggling rocks in the mine pit.

His amateur juggling caught the eye of David Carter, who befriended Listiak and taught him new juggling techniques. They worked together for two days and Carter disappeared from his life.

Fast forward five years to a weekend when Listiak and Jessica were at the Arizona Renaissance Festival, and he saw a knight that looked vaguely familiar. The siblings went to the stables after the final show and Listiak introduced himself.

“He remembered me right away and even remembered my name,” Listiak says. “He took us backstage and I met the joust company owners and the joust crew.”

They invited Listiak to volunteer for the last three weeks of the festival. At the time, he was working six days a week at Cobre Valley Motors as a lube tech and doing sales. He arranged to have a few Saturdays off so he could work in the Valley.

The joust company liked him so much, they asked Listiak to grow his hair out and go on the road to perform.

“My job was to shoveling horse poop, which I had done most of my life anyway, tacking the horses and being a horse handler,” Listiak says. “The joust company owner asked me if I’d like to go on the road so I quit my job at Cobre Valley Motors to go to a place I had never been, to a job I’d never done, with a group of guys I’d never met.”

His first gig was a weekend horse show in Albuquerque, New Mexico, so he drove to Taos to meet up with the troupe.

“I was really nervous about it, but a guy named Steve Cowan told me I was making him nervous,” Listiak says. “At that point, something clicked in my brain, and I thought ‘this is no different than any other job.’”

He has been on the road ever since. His work as a jouster has taken him from Top of the World, through a Renaissance Fair circuit with venues in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Colorado.

Over the course of that time, he has ridden about 100 different horses and played several characters, his most recent being Sir Brom, who has variations depending on the company he’s working for or the venue.

In 2008, Listiak picked up a gig in Mallorca, Spain and spent a year with a company that presented a medieval-era jousting show.

Riding the circuit

A seasoned performer, Listiak knows how to put on a show. Photo by Jeff Lasich

Listiak now only works for two companies, Hanlon-Lees Action Theater and Noble Cause Productions. Hanlon-Lees is the original jousting company in America, and provides jousters for the Arizona Renaissance Festival, although it has been years since Listiak himself has performed there.

That company also operates one of his favorite venues, the Texas Renaissance Festival, a year-end extravaganza that is the biggest such event in the country.

“I get to joust in front of 9,000 to 12,000 people in Coliseum-style seating. It’s amazing,” Listiak says. “It’s electric. I call it the energy exchange: the more energy you give them, the more they give you. It builds and by the end it’s like static electricity. It’s so awesome.”

While each company has its own style, Listiak has his own character he adapts as needed. But the competitions are heavily scripted and choreographed so everyone knows where they should be and what they should be doing at any given time, including the horses.

While some shows depend on an intricate narrative focusing less on the action, others are rough-and-tumble affairs with minimal dialog and a lot of hand-to-hand combat. The jousts happen no matter the weather, although when there is a lot of mud, the horses remain in their stables while the knights duke it out on the field of battle.

Listiak says a successful performance relies heavily on teamwork, from the knights to the horses to the squires who take care of the details.

Ultimately though, the performers are there for the people who come to the festivals to be entertained and taken back to a mythological time when men fought out their differences on the field of honor.

“People go to believe in the magic, because in everyday life the magic is being squeezed out,” Listiak says. “So they go where good does win and it is a fun, safe, happy, magical environment. I always tell the people I work with to be the magic people came to see.”

Sidetracked by a drunk driver

For more than a year, Listiak has been on the mend from a tragic accident that took place in Acoma, New Mexico on October 28, 2022, when he was T-boned by a drunk driver.

He received severe injuries, including a herniated disk in his neck and lower back as well as nerve damage and a loss of strength in his right side. He even lost his memory for four months and he could not hold a sword.

After 10 months of physical therapy, he was able to get back to work, but he occasionally stuttered and some of his shows were rewritten to hide his injuries.

“I still suffer from the accident but I am so much better,” he says. “It made me appreciate my life way more. Life is good and I’m very thankful to my family and friends that helped me through that tough time.”

He is back to working most of the year and will head out again in April, finishing in Texas the first week of December. Ultimately, he is happy to be back in the saddle doing what he feels he was meant to do.

“I love it. It’s my, my life and my chosen art form, he says. “I love the traveling. I love being outside all day long. … Death for Jarrod would be an office job.”

Photo by Jeff Lasich

The print version of this profile stated that Listiak went into a coma as a result of his accident in New Mexico. The accident took place in Acoma, New Mexico and he did not go into a coma. We applaud Listiak’s perseverance and patience.

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