I rehearse heavily ahead of time, then just before the show clear my mind, pay complete attention to the people around me and enjoy where I am. When performing with a group, we meet at the location and find time to get together in private for a group hug, three deep breaths, and a few moments of silence holding hands in a circle. I've dealt with self-consciousness by rehearsing in front of a mirror, getting used to watching myself; by yeloling my lines as loud as I can; by reading them in distorted ways. In group rehearsals, we usually go through several sessions of breaking each other up into giggle-fits. Performing, I like to focus on one person at a time and address myself to that one person. I focus on what I'm saying, the original meaning and passion those words had for me. I keep my body loose, especially my jaw, and move, don't freeze. I enjoy what I'm doing as much as possible, and remind myself that every great performer in history has been an imperfect human being, so I'm in the right company. I do try to walk, stretch, exercise before the performance; I eat very lightly, and no milk products. Afterward, I soak up all the compliments I can get. Compliments are your fuel. Eat them up. he best performers, writiers, artists of all kinds I know grab compliments and milk them. They will reinforce you for the next performance.
When I was in high school a friend of my mother's, a teacher, told me, "Don't let any counselor tell you to look for a career with 'the least competition.' Do what you love, and *be* the competition." The performing arts build confidence, persuasiveness, and other skills that can transfer to many other areas of life. They don't always, but they can. I teach writing and performance workshops to homeless and low-income students, and over and over I see people blossom with the opportunity to stand up, speak for themselves, and be heard. I think public performance is a great empowering experience for anyone, and I certainly wouldn't discourage any child from engaging in it. We also don't know what may develop in the future in the public arts. New tehnology is influencing the arts, but so are cultural changes. As powerful as the trend seems to centralized, mass-produced, big-money-controlled performance media, there is an equally strong trend back to local, grassroots, community-based arts and individually controlled media. I believe, myself, that there will always be a place for local, community-based performance arts. It may not be a lucrative profession, but if it is loved, it will be rewarding. And I've found myself that the busier I get, the less I spend. :)