I invite you to let your imagination take you – and create something. Rather than go on a journey, let the journey take you. Let your instinct take hold and tell a story that you may not know you had inside of you. Something that’s been there. A story. A tale. Tales by Candlelight
I am in the interior of a small candle shoppe tucked away in the recesses of Hollywood. Trinkets and treasures from other worlds, other times, litter the walls. A large map of a land I don’t recognize is illuminated in an orange glow. I remove my jacket (and my shoes) and settle into a comfortable couch, surrounded by too many pillows. I lift an ornate silver container – its contents filled with the lovely aroma of fresh coffee beans. Coffee is a popular choice for cleansing the olfactory palate, a man behind a desk proclaims. I inhale deeply and begin my journey.
This is the start to Tales by Candlelight, a new role-playing experience by immersive company Walk the Night, in collaboration with Cantrip Candles. In this experience, one audience member embarks on a journey to tell a collaborative story which you and a guide craft together – with a little help from different scents. This story and the scents you select are ultimately captured in a candle that you receive after the completion of your narrative.
This experience is billed as a scented, role-playing experience – and that’s an important distinction from your typical immersive venture. Guests are seated for the entirety of this experience, but the mind of each participant is transported to a world, a place, a land that they create. Those familiar with tabletop role-playing games will feel right at home in this experience – but those who’ve never played one will have little to no trouble diving in. The mechanics are simple: You are guided to tell a story, by creating a world, the people that live there, and what happens there. There’s no right or wrong here – it’s whatever is inside of you. It can be an epic battle, it can be a romantic love story, or it can be a deep mystery that leaves you wanting more.
As mentioned, you aren’t telling this story alone. Christoff, your humble candle-maker, guides the story and helps you if you stumble or need appropriate inspiration. Like an expert quilter, he weaves the threads of your narrative with ease, building in details and intrigue that perfectly paint this world in your head. He is a main driving force, pushing the narrative forward, but leaving pauses, posing questions, and prompting responses that make this story uniquely yours. It’s his ability to take the pieces you provide and synthesize them together to form a cohesive narrative that truly make this experience succeed.
While Christoff may be a main reason this experience succeeds, it is the integration of scent that differentiates Tales by Candlelight from all other role-playing experiences. At different junctions during your tale, Christoff will select various scents that directly tie into your story. These will be presented to you, and your choice will help drive the narrative forward. For me, it was important not to think of a choice and find a scent that fits, but rather do the converse: let the scent conjure up the choice for me. It was magical to see what the imagination creates based on scent alone – and how that simple choice can send you down a different path that you may not have expected. Fun fact: The olfactory system is adjacent to the hippocampus, allowing scent to be directly connected to the emotional and memory portions of the brain – explaining why memories sparked by scent in this experience feel nostalgic and emotional rather than concrete and detailed.
Smell and spoken word are the main components of this experience, but it would be remiss not to mention the other senses that are used to immerse audiences. Utilizing a Philips Hue system, subtle changes in lighting are made as the story is told. Lights change from rageful reds to deep dark blues as the story shifts from a dangerous encounter to a tender moment between friends. Further, ambient background sounds are used to further draw creativity from the participant and solidify the world around them. Waves crash against the cliffs as my avatar stares up at the night sky, but a more enigmatic piano played as I delved deeper into an ancient mystery. The combination of sight, sound, and scent are all perfectly incorporated in this multi-sensory experience.
Walk the Night is no stranger to collaborative experiences between a guest and their host – and Tales by Candlelight is no exception to this strong ability. Taking the oral tradition of storytelling and infusing it with scents, guests are able to bring out something special from inside themselves. This is a tale – something living, something that grows and changes in time and telling. And something you can come back time and time again to revisit… in the form of a candle that will remind you of this story every time you burn it.
Find more information about current and upcoming Walk the Night events on their website or Facebook page. Buy tickets for Tales by Candlelight here, and The Guest & the Host: Make Music here. Check out Event Guide for more immersive experiences throughout the year.