By Lynn Venhaus

At only 16, Nadja Kapetanovich is beginning to make a splash on local stages. She is appearing as Ellie in “The Whale,” a role she says is her favorite to date: “It has been a true gift.”

A junior in high school who lives in Alton, Ill., she has appeared in community theater, youth productions and recently, in regional professional theater. She was Tony Manero’s little sister Linda in Stray Dog Theatre’s “Saturday NIght Fever” last fall and a dancer in St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s “Winds of Change,” an original production presented in the Bevo Mill neighborhood as part of the Shakespeare in the Streets event in 2022.

She played another daughter in “From the Garden,” an original play by Don Cameron Miller, that was produced by Wee Laddie Theatrics. She will be part of a reading this summer for another original play, “13 Hours of Sun,” by Elizabeth Breed Penny.

And then trying to figure out school, future, and what’s ahead.

Here’s a glimpse into the young actress currently in “The Whale” at St. Louis Actors’ Studio Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. April 5 through April 21 at The Gaslight Theatre, 358 N. Boyle. For more information:

Take Ten Q & A with Nadja Kapetanovich

Nadja Kapetanovich and William Roth in “The Whale.” Photo by Patrick Huber.

1. What is special about your current project?

“The Whale” has been a true gift. Getting to play a character who is so misunderstood and broken has been a big challenge, but doing it alongside this cast of actors is everything I could have ever wished for. Being directed by Annamaria Pileggi has taught me so much, and I will always thank her for showing me what it feels like to really understand a character and allow myself to truly feel every emotion that comes in a natural way.

2 Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?

“My favorite memories from when I was a little kid were going to see musicals and plays in St Louis with my family. My childhood dream was to be an actor, and my parents were extremely supportive and helped me to find my first few auditions. I have always loved dissecting people’s personalities and finding out who they really are, which is why I found the process of developing your own version of a show with your cast and crew members to be extremely exciting and rewarding.”

3. How would your friends describe you?

“I did not know how my friends would describe me, so I asked them! Here were some of the things they said: “outgoing,” “super-funny and spontaneous,” “constantly bursting into song, would burst into dance but space often doesn’t allow,” “hard-working and persevering,” “passionate about her dreams,” “kind-hearted, honest, and true to her word,” and “quick-witted.” I have the best friends ever.”

4. How do you like to spend your free time?

“Recently, I have been spending my free time going on walks with my friends, trying to teach myself guitar, playing piano, painting and drawing, and reading.”

5. What is your current obsession?

“My current obsession is going on walks after school and on the weekends. I love walking around my neighborhood while listening to my favorite music. I am also currently very obsessed with vegetarian chicken sandwiches.”

6. What would people be surprised to find out about you?

“Many people are very surprised to find out that I speak Bosnian. I do not tell my new friends this, and just let them find out by hearing me speak to my dad in Bosnian for the first time. I really appreciate the shock value.”

:The Gingerbread Lady” at KTK Productions. Nadja was nominated for an Arts For Life Theater Mask Award in 2023.

7. Can you share one of your most defining moments?

“One of my most defining moments was when I was 3 years old and I saw my first musical. I think it might have either been “Annie” or “Cinderella.” At this moment, I absolutely fell in love with live theatre. On the way home from the show, I turned to my mom and said “Mommy? On Monday I need you to find out how I can become an actress.” The rest is history!

8. Who do you admire the most?

“The person I admire most in my life is my grandma. She is the most caring and helpful person I have ever met, and she is full of a huge amount of love and life. She has taught me so so much, and has been there for me whenever I needed help with anything. She is truly inspiring, and I hope that I will be like her in my future.”

9. What is at the top of your bucket list?

“Currently, moving to a big city is at the top of my bucket list. Chicago, New York, or St. Louis are all places I would really love to live. Also, I would love to be in a film in the near future.”

10. How were you affected by the pandemic years, and anything you would like to share about what got you through and any lesson learned during the isolation periods? Any reflections on how the arts were affected? And what it means to move forward?

“The COVID-19 pandemic was extremely hard for my family and I. A few months after quarantine started, my grandpa was infected with COVID. He ended up passing away from the virus, and we were not able to say goodbye to him because of social distancing. I learned that I get my energy from being around other people, so having to be apart from all of my friends and loved ones during that time was extremely difficult. Also, not getting to perform for a year was very sad. I was supposed to make my professional debut in “Looking For Normal” at Max and Louie Productions, but the show was cancelled due to the pandemic. Moving forward from COVID in the arts was extremely exciting, and it feels great to be able to come back and make my professional play debut four years later.”

11. What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis – or your hometown?

“As someone who lives about 45 minutes away from St. Louis, I come often, but usually visit the same places over and over. I love the Zoo and the Art Museum. I also really enjoy walking in Central West End before rehearsals with my dad. In my hometown, Alton, I really love walking down by the river and on the docks with my friends.”

12. What’s next?

“I’m currently auditioning for some summer shows, and I will be doing a reading of a play by Elizabeth Breed Penny called “13 Hours of Sun” this summer. Apart from theatre, I am very focused on school right now. I’m going to be a senior next year, which means I have to start applying to colleges and decide what I am going to do with my future.”

Nadja in “Winds of Change,” an original production presented in the Bevo Mill neighborhood as part of the Shakespeare in the Streets event in 2022.

More Information on Nadja Kapetanovich

Age: 16 years old
Birthplace: Alton, Ill.
Current Location: Alton, Ill.
Family: Jennifer and Mirsad Kapetanovich are my incredible parents.I do not have any siblings, but spend a lot of time with my grandparents.
Education: Currently a high school junior.
Day job: High School
First Job: Selling vegetables at a farmers’ market
First play you were involved in: “Shrek the Musical” when I was 8 years old.
Favorite Jobs/Roles/Plays or work in your medium: My favorite role I have played is Ellie in “The Whale,” but Jeannine Pratt in “Ordinary People,” Esther Smith in “Meet Me in St. Louis,” and Polly Meara in “The Gingerbread Lady” are also high on my list.
Dream job/opportunity: Professional actor/clinical psychologist
Awards/Honors/Achievements: I was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for my role in The Gingerbread Lady” a few years ago! I also won Best Supporting Performer in a Play for the 2023 St. Louis Broadway World Awards.
Favorite quote/words to live by: “There are places you haven’t been where you already belong”
A song that makes you happy: “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles

“Freaky Friday” at Christ Memorial Productions in 2023..

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