I always use cue cards.
For the first show I ever did I used a cue card and I continue to use them but in a different way.
A cue card is not a substitute for script memorization and its certainly not a substitute for scripting in general.
They won’t save you if you have not thoroughly rehearsed but they will save you if you suffer a momentary brain freeze.
Performing is a high-stress situation and even the best of us can go blank under pressure.
I rarely forget a line, so my cue cards don’t have lines, but I often lose my place in the flow of the show.
If I don’t glance at the card, I might skip a routine.
When I did an illusion show my partner Jill kept me on track.
As I performed one routine, Jill would set up the next.
Then when that routine ended Jill was there to take the prop and hand me the next.
But even when I worked with Jill, I still used one cue card.
In those days it was a poster size cue card positioned just off stage.
The card listed the flow of the show in big bold letters, providing the sequence of effects.
Jill relied on it as much as I did.
Today I am a mentalist.
Once I have a show booked, I gather as much information as possible about my audience.
Based on my audience assessment I select the routines that I feel will be best for them.
Once this is done, I create the flow of the show, sequencing my routines into a natural order.
My individual routines are rehearsed to perfection, but the flow of my show varies depending on my audience.
I may be performing for an elderly audience, for instance.
In that case, I will not build in as many routines that require an audience member to come on stage with me.
On the other hand, I might learn that there will be children in the audience.
If that is the case, I will select routines with visual props, simple plots, and that will require audience participation.
I assess my audience to the extent that it is possible pre-show, I build my show around my audience, and then I create my card.
My current card is a legal-size paper, 8.5 inches wide and 14 inches long.
Each routine has a title that is unique to me.
If I am using a commercial effect, like Brainwave, I don’t call it Brainwave.
Instead, I call it by the effect I am trying to create in the minds of my audience.
The title I give a routine is highly suggestive of the theme and patter I have used to build the routine.
I use a 16-point font and a plain style like Times New Roman.
I use a basic font so the words are not challenging to read or ambiguous.
My list of routines in performance order is double spaced.
Another little trick I use is highlighting.
I highlight every other routine.
This way all I need is a glance.
I do not have to search for my place on the list.
A simple glance tells me which routine is next and what the general theme of the routine is.
I use the same or similar system when I speak.
I “hide” my card in plain sight.
Mine is on my prop table.
Since I have to reach for a prop anyway it is natural to steal a glance without anyone noticing.
Give it a try and if you have questions, e-mail me.