San Antonio actor to star in new TV series, talks about 'secret' to his success


James Scully returned to the stage of the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre Sunday night, reflecting on the success he's enjoyed since winning a life-changing scholarship there seven years ago.

"Clearly the work that this foundation is doing and that this event does for these young people is so... so important."

Scully was a student at the Northeast School of the Arts (NESA) in 2010 when he competed in the Las Casas Foundation's performing arts scholarship competition known as the Joci Awards.

Sunday night, Scully told the crowd how winning a Joci Award helped him go on to college at Otterbein University and then pursue a full-time career as an actor.

And his career is poised to take off this fall with Scully starring in the new TV series 'Heathers' which is set to air this fall on The Paramount Networknet.

"The confidence this kind of thing gives young people... When I walked out of here seven years ago with my Joci Award, an award that I won solely on the merits of an art form and a craft I cared so deeply about, it was the first time in my life that I felt that I was making my way and earning my keep as an artist and that was so important."

"And over the next seven years when I faced lots of no's, when I struggled with self-doubt, when I allowed other people to make me feel silly for pursuing my dream, I thought about that night and that award and those people... who were willing to trust in me and support me and believe in me and that made all the difference."

"And now seven years later, I'm going to be starring in a television series!"

'Heathers' is based on the 1980's cult film of the same name. Scully plays the role Christian Slater had in the movie.

"And I think you can draw a really clear, easy line between that night [of the Joci Awards in 2010] and the day that I found out that I booked Heathers. And those people who were willing to trust in me and believe in me and the success that I have enjoyed as a performer today."

Scully took the stage Sunday night while the judges were tabulating votes for the 25 young people in this year's scholarship competition.

This year the Las Casas Foundation's Joci Awards handed out a total of $105,000 in scholarships, with each of those 25 young performers walking away with at least $3,000.

With some $800,000 in scholarships awarded over the years, the Las Casas Foundation's Joci Awards have become the largest single performing arts scholarship program in the country.

And Scully knows how important those scholarships are.

"Graduating from high school and transitioning into college is scary for everybody, but I think it's particularly daunting when you're pursuing a degree in a career field as competitive and wrought with rejection as the performing arts."

"And while our parents and our teachers and our loved ones love us and support us and want what's best for us, some of them might be happier if we were pursuing degrees in business or economics or poli-sci."

"But that's why Las Casas and the Joci Awards are so important. Because not only does this foundation look at our young people... and say we believe in you and your talent and we affirm that the work that you want to do as artists is important and noble and worth doing... but this foundation puts its money where its mouth is. And invests - truly invests - in the young performers."

Scully encouraged those in the crowd to get involved in helping the Las Casas Foundation in several ways, from volunteering to help with their events to writing checks.

"Because investing in our young performers is something that we can only continue to do as long as we have the means to do so."

"So if you believe - and how could you not believe, in all of the beautiful young people you've seen on stage tonight? And if you believe in inspiring the next generation of young San Antonio artists, please don't hesitate to be generous."

"And we can have a lot more young San Antonians and people from all over South Texas achieving their dreams as I've been so lucky and blessed to do."

The Joci Awards are named for San Antonio arts patron and philanthropist Joci Straus who helped start the Las Casas Foundation back in the 1980s to help save and restore the historic Majestic and Empire Theatres.

Since then, she and the foundation's lifetime co-director Charline McCombs, have expanded Las Casas' work to include education in the performing arts.

Their annual Camp Broadway in the summer brings in show business professionals from across the country to work directly with young people in Master Classes, seminars and rehearsals.

And the Joci Awards program also includes Hollywood and Broadway veterans working directly with the high school performers in free workshops. Five of those professionals judged this weekend's competition.

On a personal note, I've been incredibly lucky to have been the MC of the Joci Awards since the beginning and I can't emphasize enough how surprisingly talented these young people are.

And to see James Scully come back as yet another success story who's about to star in his own TV series is a testament to all the hard work and dedication of the Las Casas Foundation. It also shows the strength of their vision which is really paying off.

Congratulations to James Scully and to Joci Straus, Charline McCombs, Kevin Parman, Frank Ruttenberg, Kaye Lenox, Skip Wood, Doren Fein, Ana Flores, Jennifer Martinez, and everyone with the Las Casas Foundation as well as those with the Blanchard Creative Group.

And just like James Scully has gone on to great success, I'm sure we'll see some of this year's scholarship winners singing, acting and dancing on Broadway or in big-time TV shows or movies in the coming years as the Joci Awards continue to grow.

If you'd like to get involved, here's the link to the Las Casas Foundation website,

BTW, you can watch excerpts from Sunday night's show on June 10th, right here on News 4 San Antonio (WOAI-TV). And stay tuned to this page and check out my facebook page for some photos I took from backstage:

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