CADET SPOTLIGHT: For Ivy League-bound Patrick "Paddy" Balbo, curiosity and versatility are essential

By Noell Barnidge
Actors are curious people. They are intrigued by many facets of life. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that Benedictine Military School senior Patrick “Paddy” Balbo is involved in numerous school activities. The aspiring actor is unafraid of new experiences and thrives on the challenges that come with each endeavor.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, affirmatively nodding his head. “If you do a lot, you’re going to force yourself to grow. If you just do one thing, that’s great, but then you limit yourself.”

During his four years as a Cadet, Balbo has performed in the Benedictine and St. Vincent’s Academy musical productions of “The Pajama Game,” “Camelot,” “Footloose,” and “Cinderella.” He is BC’s Student Council President. And he’s also been a member of the school’s mathematics team, campus ministry, Model United Nations, National Honor Society, JROTC, the Raider team, and the One-Act Play competition, among other activities.

Balbo’s tenacity is one of the reasons he will attend Dartmouth College, a private Ivy League university in Hanover, N.H. He also was accepted the University of Southern California; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, San Diego; University of California, Santa Barbara; Emerson College; Duquesne University; Northwestern University; and Fordham University (where his brother, Attilio “AJ” Balbo, Jr., Benedictine Class of 2022, is majoring in journalism).”

“Yale was what I was gunning for but then Dartmouth, as soon as I really looked into it more, I was more impressed,” he said. “I didn’t really think I had a shot (to get into Dartmouth).”

At Dartmouth, Balbo will pursue a bachelor’s degree in theater and minor in psychology.

The Common Application, also known as the Common App, is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants can use to apply to more than 1,000 member colleges and universities throughout the country. The Common App has made applying to multiple colleges easier than ever before … unless you plan to major in theater, Balbo said. For theater majors, the college interview process is extensive because it’s also an audition.

“A lot of the (colleges), you’ve got to go up (to visit) and audition there,” he said. “That was a whole thing, to go to California, to go up to New York, to go to Boston, and just show out. A lot of (the auditions), you could send (video) in, so I was able to send some musical stuff, and other songs and monologues. But (most colleges) like to see you live and in living color if they can. It was really cool to go up (to Hanover) with my parents and see the whole (Dartmouth) layout.”

Balbo’s mother, Christy, is a judge. His father, Attilio, Sr., is a lawyer. Both attended Duquesne University, a private Catholic university in Pittsburgh, Pa., where they earned their undergraduate degrees. They attended Fordham University, a private Jesuit university in Bronx, N.Y., for law school.

Theater? Seems like Balbo would be interested in pursuing a law career.

“Absolutely not,” he said, smiling. “There’s probably some crossover between getting ready for a show and getting ready to present for trial. My mother has a joke, ‘All lawyers are just failed actors.’”

Balbo’s heart is set on theater but advancing to this stage in the college application process has been an arduous process akin to waiting to appear before a judge about a traffic citation.

“The whole process has been just insane,” Balbo said. “Let’s say you have 10 schools on your list, but you do your theater portfolio and you’re basically at 20 (applications) because everything you do, you have to do twice.”

Balbo was not a child actor, but his mother always saw in him the ability to perform. She encouraged him.

“My parents, my mom especially, would take me to go see things,” he said. “We would go to a show, and she would say, ‘You could do that.’ And I would always be like, ‘I don’t know. It’s not really my thing.’ And it took ‘Hamilton,’ which was something that I was like, ‘That’s cooler than what I thought. Let me go back and look.’ So I went back and looked and I was like, ‘Oh, OK. This is cooler than I thought it was.’”

Balbo said he became sold on acting after watching Jonathan “JP” DeCubellis, Benedictine Class of 2020, perform in a BC-SVA musical. Balbo has since received guidance from DeCubellis and Zachary Tate, Benedictine Class of 2017, who were stars of BC-SVA musicals and now are pursing professional careers in the performing arts.

“And then I saw JP (perform) and I thought, ‘This is really something here that I like and enjoy,’” Balbo said. “Once I did it, I was hooked, and it was really good. I saw JP DeCubellis and thought ‘That guy is really cool. I definitely gotta do this.’ He’s just been great. Him, Zach Tate, they’ve been great, helping me, supporting me. I think all of that, collectively, because BC here has helped me do that, and do One-Act (Play), too, I think the more and more I do it, the more I want to do it.”

Theater is strongly supported by Benedictine Military School’s administration, faculty, and staff. That is not the case at many schools throughout the country.

“That’s an important thing because theater is not a whole season,” Balbo said. “The only thing that happens (for theater) is those three days (of performances). It’s all right there and it’s the focal point of that week, especially for the people that are in it.”

Not only have DeCubellis and Tate played a role in guiding Balbo, but his classmates also have been supportive. That’s the magic of the BC brotherhood. Balbo attended St. Frances Cabrini Catholic School from Pre-K through sixth grade until the school closed. He attended St. James Catholic School in seventh and eighth grade. At St. James, he became friends with Luke Kromenhoek, Benedictine Class of 2024, who graduated early and is a Florida State University quarterback. Kromenhoek attended Balbo’s musical performances to support his BC brothers.

“I feel like the closer you get with your class, it doesn’t matter what (activity) you do, the guys support it,” Balbo said. “Like Luke, he’s been my guy since St. James (Catholic School). He always comes out to support people. And my friend Connor Zoll. That’s cool. It’s like, ‘Hey, man, we know this is important to you.’ That was really special to me. They care. In regard to other schools, I think BC, I truly believe that over the past 10 years or so, the best performers (in Savannah) have come from BC. I have a lot of friends over at (Savannah) Country Day, and they put on a great show, but there’s something about the BC and SVA show that is special.

“Luke likes hard work,” Balbo continued. “He appreciates the process. He likes to help me out. Anytime somebody comes to the show it’s great. Their support helps us. And it makes you stronger. It makes your bond stronger. Luke is a perfect example. He could have been doing ANYTHING else, but he took time out of his day to come watch us. I think that’s part of the reason why people come and support the show when it comes around because I will go to this, and I will go to that. If someone has a football game, I go to it. Or whatever. Soccer. Whatever. I think they try and reciprocate.”

Balbo plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in four years and pursue a career in acting as quickly as possible. Broadway. Hollywood. Commercials. It doesn’t matter. Actors simply want to work.

“I want to get to work as soon as possible,” Balbo said. “A lot can change in four years. I might want to go and do more acting classes somewhere else (after Dartmouth), but I think right now the plan is to just go straight through (for four years and earn a bachelor’s degree). The more and more I look at it, the more and more I think that film and TV would be better for me. But musical theater, whatever it is, I want to do it. Anything. I would take anything, anywhere. Singing somewhere. Anything.”