Here's the effect. The performer brings four people up on stage and divides them into two teams of two each.
There can be all kinds of fun picking teams (read: siblings, couples, etc.) depending on the situation. Each person is given two 3" X 5" card displaying a single letter each the two player teams stand next to each other. It is explained that the performer will give out a word and the members of each team must rearrange themselves, physically moving their hands to the proper order, to spell the word correctly. The team that spells the word first wins that round. A total of five rounds will be played.
Believe me when I tell you that this gets very competitive very quickly and the chaos that ensues is invariably hysterical. I have the audience decide which team wins each round. A fifth volunteer is used to keep track of the score using a dry erase board.
There is a lovely kicker for the final round. The letters used are 'S', 'O', 'T' and 'P'. There are several different words that can be spelled with these letters, but the final word turns out to be "DOTS". There is usually an instant freeze of the action on stage while everyone tries to figure out how to spell the word. Eventually someone does, either in the audience (who yells out the solution) or the contestants themselves. Regardless, it makes for a fine finish to this part of the routine. (If you haven't as yet figured out this ending, I will give you one hint - all of the letters are lower case. Think about it, you'll figure it out).
Once the calamity has died down it is announced what the final tally was. Let's say that Team 'A' won four times and Team 'B' won once. Both teams receive a huge round of applause. This entire time you have been standing there holding an envelope. It is opened and inside is a dry erase board with the exact tally of the wins and losses. You've cleanly predicted the outcome of total chaos! It's a killer!
The entire rig is eight letter cards (3" X 5"), two dry erase boards (4" X 6" and wafer thin) and a heavy envelope. Supply your own dry erase marker. That's it! Talk about packing flat and playing big!
All of that movement seriously fills a close-up space in every way, and as such is a boon for close up workers who want action and participation.
A few salient points to keep in mind: