Kara Salmela loves her family's Duluth home, with its views of Lake Superior. But she will be seeing less of the world's largest freshwater lake this spring.
After several auditions last fall, Kara's 11-year-old daughter, Sofia, landed a coveted spot in "Matilda the Musical" at Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis. The venue is three hours from Duluth by car, which meant Sofia's thrilling accomplishment came with a quandary: Should Kara and her husband, Cory, take turns driving Sofia to and from rehearsals each day, while their sixth-grader remains in classes? Or should they relocate half the family for a significant portion of the school year?
It was a no-brainer, Kara said. She secured an apartment for two in the Twin Cities, allowing Sofia to seize the biggest opportunity yet in her young acting career. The Salmelas do what it takes to support their daughter's dreams. As luck has it, it's possible because "we have our own business and I can work by remote," Kara said. Sofia's school also signed off on the deal, valuing the experience as part of her education.
Sofia is one of three youngsters who will alternate in the title role of "Matilda," the feisty Broadway musical (based on a book by Roald Dahl). That leaves two more budding theater stars -- with backup provided by two more sets of parents -- to juggle behind the scenes.
It's not unusual for families to sacrifice for children pursuing passions. Take hockey, for example. People groan at the cost alone. Parents burn through money, equipment and time while driving their prodigies hither and yon. Siblings spend endless hours under bleachers in what seems like perpetual cold storage.
It's a much bigger deal to relocate for kids' pursuits, although it's not unheard of. Tennis coach Richard Williams famously moved his family from California to Florida so that daughters Venus and Serena could get the training they needed.
But the stakes are higher than ever as amateur activities begin to resemble professional pursuits -- in terms of cost and time commitment. The hockey model has been extrapolated to everything from theater and music to dance teams and cheer squads.
Of course, the kids don't always see the full picture.
"When I was smaller, I tried a lot of things, like sports and camps," said 11-year-old Lillian Hochman, one of the other leads for "Matilda." "When I found theater, I knew this was it. These are the people I want to be with for the rest of my life."