Cue sheets are notes used predominantly in theater performances that indicate when certain lighting changes, sounds, or other events are going to happen during the show. These sheets are often maintained by a director and stage manager to help them keep track of when things are supposed to occur during a performance. Shorter versions of the cue sheets will often be given to those responsible for lighting and sound that only indicate the portions of the full sheets that affect them.
An example of how cue sheets are used would be in a production of Romeo and Juliet where the director had decided to have certain conditions happen to enhance the scene as Romeo is departing Juliet in the morning. The director may want some orange lighting to come on to indicate visually that the sun is rising. In this case there would be a note on the cue sheets to indicate that orange lighting comes on from stage left or right. The lighting operators would then have sheets that indicated to them that orange light needs to come on and when during the performance it would happen.
To make the scene more idyllic, the director may also want the sound of singing birds to be lightly played during this moment. There would be notes on the full cue sheets to indicate that at this point in the performance there should be orange light and the sound of birds singing. The sound crew would have a sheet noting that the sounds of singing birds needs to occur at a certain point in the performance. They would not, however, have the note about the lighting and the lighting operators would similarly not have a note about the sound. This keeps the production simplified but the director and stage manager know all of what should be happening.
Similarly, during film or television performances, the director may choose to use cue cards for his or her performers. These cards contain some of the same information as cue sheets and are often used during live performances to help a performer in case he or she forgets a line or is unsure of a specific action that must be taken. The cue cards can also help a performer move a certain way if it is important to a scene or to add emphasis where needed. Such cue cards have become less popular in recent years as Teleprompters have replaced bulky cards with screens that allow the text to scroll as the performers read it.