Without any immersive or haunt experiences in sight for at least the next few months, I was starting to get more than just a little sad. I was worrying about the future of the industry. However, I’ve breathed big sighs of relief as the community has gone above and beyond to find creative ways to brings the experiences to us.

Candle House Collective, a non-profit specializing in remote immersive experiences, has been in a great position to weather the fallout from social distancing measures. They’ve been doing phone-based immersive experiences for some time and they plan to keep them coming. This past month, I had the good fortune to pick up COLLECT CALL, one of the many Candle House Collective shows on offer right now. And let me tell you, it was not only a way better use of time I would have otherwise spent starting into the middle distance on my couch, it was also an absolute treat.

Candle House Collective’s COLLECT CALL is a two-part encounter. Call one lasts roughly 1 hour and call two lasts about 15 minutes and they happen on two successive days of your choosing. While I don’t want to give too much away about the plot or the details (becausle they’re among the bigger reveals in the call), you can guess you receive your “collect call” from someone who’s incarcerated. COLLECT CALL is short on the laughs, but it gets you in the feels. As someone who has received a number of collect calls from an incarcerated love one, it took me back while also reminding me that I never know who around me has had that same experience. Regardless of your personal history with the prison system, COLLECT CALL is incredible teaching tool. You’ll be shown—or, rather, you’ll teach yourself—how to see the good in someone the world has deemed bad. After Candle House’s COLLECT CALL, you will definitely think twice before passing judgment against those who have already been judged.

Compared to the other Candle House Collective shows I’ve done, COLLECT CALL requires a moderate level of participation. While you’ll get more out of your conversations with the person on the other end of the line the more you respond, I liked that this experience gave me the opportunity to opt out of responding to prying or intimate questions. That being said, I did not opt out and found that my responses were met with genuine interest and allowed my new acquaintance to improvise in impressive ways.

Be sure to keep in mind that Candle House’s calls take place in set windows of time and you should seek out a quiet place where you can listen carefully to what your caller has to say. It also seems important to note that calls from Candle House come up “No Caller ID,” so be sure to not hit ignore when you are in your scheduled time window. With tickets in the $40 range, a Candle House call is the perfect price-point for immersive newbies looking to try something different and diehards who need their fix.

Seeing the Corona’tine is well underway and, in many places, it has no real end in sight, any Candle House Collective experience is a great way to mix up the day-in-day-out monotony of self-isolation for yourself or a friend. Many theater companies have been figuring out ways to bring their content to you in the comfort of your own home, but Candle House Collective has already perfected the craft. If you’re looking for the polish and pizzazz of the real-life thing, then Candle House is the way to go. Their shows sell out pretty fast, so subscribe to the email listserv to stay ahead of the curve of those who have already caught on to what makes Candle House the perfect antidote to cabin fever.

Information about Candle House Collective and their shows can be found on their website: https://candlehousecollective.com