When Olivia McKenna was 2, she had her life planned out through college. She wanted to be a doctor. But then she attended an acting workshop in Crawfordsville at the age of 4.
From that point on, she wanted to take a career path through Hollywood and Broadway, making her go from "doctor to waitress," as her parents Heather and Kevin Cook like to joke.
The acting workshop sparked an interest in theater that has stayed strong ever since, guiding her to Beef and Boards dinner theater in Indianapolis. Now 7, McKenna will be one of two child leads in the variety show "A Beef and Boards Christmas 2011," which will run from now until Dec. 23.
McKenna and co-emcee, 9-year-old Ethan Halford Holder of Indianapolis, will be involved in several musical numbers, dance, sing and crack a few jokes in the 37 performances of the play. McKenna will even play the piano.
Kevin Cook said his daughter's reaction was a truly special moment, and she's been on cloud nine ever since.
"I'm really happy for her," Kevin said. "She was very excited... jumping up and down... it makes us happy to see her enjoying it so much."
After being involved in the acting workshop, McKenna has performed at other plays and events at the Vanity Theater in Crawfordsville an the New Market Church, performing in the plays "Annie" and "Into the Woods." She is also a part of the New Light Singers from the Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church in Crawfordsville. She recently won the junior division of the Indiana State Fair talent contest as well, singing "Things I Know Now" from the play "Into the Woods."
The Cooks have no idea how she got her artistic side. Kevin was actually encouraging her to get involved in sports, watching events with her and trying to pique her interest. But there is no turning back the performing bug now, and if you can't beat them, join them.
"We're completely not into that," Kevin said. "It's just not our thing. (But) I've learned quite a lot since she started doing this."
Tickets for the shows are on sale now and range from $36-$59. The ticket price includes a holiday buffet, fruit and salad bar, coffee and tea. The box office will be open between 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Mondays and can be reached at 317-872-9664. Beef and Boards is located at 9301 N. Michigan Rd., Indianapolis, IN 46268.