We played a game called "hot seat" where you come into the space as a character and then everyone else gets to ask you whatever questions they want. A good way of doing this for anyone, but especially as beginners, is to base your character on someone that you know. Because there was no impetus to work on setting a scene or develop a plot or anything like that, it meant that all of your energy as an improviser could go directly to fleshing out who your character was.
It was riveting.
The bar was set frighteningly high by the first few people to go- the characters were heartbreaking and breathtaking, fully fleshed out and interesting. Because we weren't sharing *our* stories but instead our *character's* stories it meant that everyone felt very free to hand out secrets, to be open, revelatory, and honest. It was incredibly intimate; it was an honour to be entrusted with these characters' stories. At the break we were actually hugging each other- it had been such an intense experience.
I chose a friend of mine and was shaking before my turn. "I don't know how she's going to answer these questions!" I thought, certain that I wouldn't be able to give as authentic (it wasn't really a performance... an experience?) as everyone else had. And then there she was. Or someone rather like her in any case. I had about 12 minutes of answering questions and she didn't even pause. Best of all, she was internally consistent and her motivations were clear with later statements making references to earlier statements and everything making sense. One of my classmates later said that he got so angry with her. Not me, her: such strong opinions about everything. She really rubbed him the wrong way.
Man, that was exciting.