We’re standing in a circle as the winter dance begins. Three deer prance through the space, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes startled. They begin to gather members from the audience, placing them as still as trees around the space. In unison, all begin to stamp a rhythm in unison. The Yule ceremony has begun.
On Friday, December 6th, 2019, a unique and welcome party joined the Los Angeles scene. The first of what is planned to be an annual event, Yule: A Festive Immersive Celebration brought both immersive creators and their audiences together to commemorate the 2019 Los Angeles live experiential community through raffles from notable immersive companies, interactive elements, and even some naughty fun.
Yule was a holiday party, a charity fundraiser, a chance to interact with others in the immersive world in an informal setting, and an interactive experience all rolled into one night. The brainchild of Julia Henning and The Halogen Company, this year’s Yule reached out to immersive creators from multiple companies (including Haunting, JFI Productions and They Played Productions, for instance) to donate items for a raffle. Many immersive creators were in attendance, giving audiences who love such entertainment the chance to interact with them and their actors in a relaxed, conversational environment.
With the help of Stefani Lah and the PAC for Event Planning, the celebration part of Yule was a simple, entertaining gathering. Ornaments were decorated with manifestations and desires for 2020 and placed on the Yule Tree; these will be read online next year. Snow cones and popcorn were in easy supply. Stephanie Delazeri sketched fantastic portraits of guests in an astonishingly short amount of time. Even Keight Leighn (bedrumplai) was on hand to offer card readings for those interested in understanding more about their current life path.
As an event aimed at the immersive community, however, Yule also added some interactive elements to the mix. For those who had the Naughty ticket, Krampus was hidden away in a room for them to interact with. Played with appropriately dark, mischievous relish by James Cowan (One Exit, The Kansas Collection), Krampus wanted only the best for those who visited him. Of course, in Krampus’ mind the “best” is for everyone to give in to his or her desires and enjoy being naughty – the opposite of dear old St. Nick. Krampus even offered an example of what he meant through a fun, slightly risqué version of Truth or Dare he called “Candor or Consequence.” The Krampus visit made a wonderful flip to the more traditional visit with Santa that most holiday parties employ.
In the Nice room, another experience came to fruition. For most of the evening, this room was a place for audiences to relax on sofas or to cut a rug on the dance floor to the awesome music curated with masterful precision by DJ Jenna Sherman. With lights and plenty of dry ice, the Nice room made for a haze-filled, disco-light party room. But as the night came to a close, the Nice room was the centerpiece of the party’s finale. Back in the general room, Demi Jolato gathered everyone into a circle as she launched into a wonderful drag performance of Mariah Carey’s Christmas classic, “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” As soon as Jolato finished her performance, she led the entire party back into the Nice room where a much different performance began.
The music changed to a much darker, more eerie piece (truly haunting music composed and sung by Hanah Davenport). Three dancers (Koryn Wicks, Jemima Choong, and Robyn O’Dell) appeared, portraying themselves as deer in the middle of the night. Using a beat created by members of the audience brought into the center, the dancers performed a series of choreographed moments that acknowledged both the celebration of the end of the year, and the sadness of the coldest of the seasons. It was both beautiful and harrowing and the audience was rapt throughout the performance.
With the end of the Yule dance, the party finally turned to its charitable aspect. Henning believes that art is inherently selfish and she wants to make certain that every piece she is involved with also offers something to benefit worthy organizations. For this year’s Yule Celebration, The Halogen Company raised over $3,522 for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles from the performance and raffle tickets. Henning hopes that events like this one will lead the way to more such moments and fundraising in the future.
2019’s Yule Celebration was an example of how inclusive the immersive community in Los Angeles can be. Creators and audience members can come together simply to celebrate the experiences they have all been a part of, with joy and camaraderie and in the spirit of welcoming as many people into this world as possible. Yule showed what an immersive community gathering should be, during the best time of year to remember what the word community really means.