Sunday, August 9, 2015


CENTER CITY created by Giovanni Vitacolonna
Anna and her two handsome sons run a successful Italian restaurant on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. “If secrets be the food of love, there’s a feast in Center City. Come hungry.” This is a passionate world full of warmth, food, music and a lot of history that will start to unravel and reveal the truth. Each character is a piece of the puzzle that we start to put together. We are at a buffet table of emotions, good, bad and everything in between.


Anna Fontana De Marco: 50. Attractive, Italian American restaurant owner of Gaetano's. Feminine, yet formidable. A matriarch who loves her two sons more than anything. Opinionated and controlling yet caring at the same time. She yearns to love again.

Marc De Marco: 30. Tall, athletic and hauntingly attractive. Appears calm and in control to the world but beneath the surface lies a tortured soul. Struggles with his homosexuality and his decision to leave the priesthood. It is through the telling of Marc’s story that the Church is taken to task.

Domenic De Marco: 25. Italian-American. Strikingly good looking. Confident, cocky and flirtatious, but very much in love with his fiancée, Valerie Festa. Both street and book smart, he keeps his educated life under wraps so as not to distance himself too much from "the neighborhood" where his family is from, South Philly.

Valerie Festa: 25. Strikingly beautiful Afro-Italian, Single mother. Very much in love with her fiancé, Domenic De Marco. Her singing can mesmerize you. Positive and forward thinking despite the hardships that she has faced.

Thomas "Tommy" Avalon: mid to late 20's. Handsome and athletic but the weight of his struggles are worn on his face. The sous-chef at Gaetano's but eager for more responsibility. Secretly in love with Marc. Not an alcoholic, but when we first meet him he has a reliance upon alcohol to soothe his demons. A former prostitute.

Nicola “Nick” De Marco (50) is a charming rapscallion once married to Anna and father to Domenic and Marc. He has a reputation for being a womanizer and an absentee father. His goal is to redeem himself to a certain extent with his family. He “sits” on many solutions to the puzzle.

Mike Sheehan: (38). Ruggedly handsome, Irish American. A charming rogue that may or may not be connected to the mob. He is a bartender at the restaurant. His personable demeanor should not be cause to underestimate him. He has the ability to go from charming to deadly in the blink of an eye.

Marlena Hightower Festa: 50s. Majestic, African American woman. A doctor specializing in infectious diseases. Intelligent and outspoken, she isn't afraid of anyone...not even Anna De Marco. Her daughter, Valerie, is the pride and joy of her life.

Gianni Festa 50s is a gentle soul and a musician. It is through him that Valerie gets her love of music. He adores his daughter and is a very protective father and adoring husband. A guitarist, he tours as a musician Agato Terranova (55-60) is the most enigmatic of the bunch, very inscrutable and may very well be part of the mob. It behooves him to let Eleanora, his “Norina” to take center stage—that way less attention is paid to him.

Rita Avalon (50s) is from the old neighborhood. She has a history. She is very devoted to her surviving foster son Tommy and wants to help him “rise up.” She has her eye on Mike Sheehan and, therefore, something of a foil for Anna.

Gaetano Fontana (43-50) Anna’s fraternal twin and Nick’s best friend is an artistic soul who is also an executive chef. He almost has celebrity status as the original “star” of the restaurant his disappearance and/or possible death is the trigger for the plot.

Eleanora “Norina” De Marco Terranova (47) is a generally happy and caring person, more devoted to her former sister-in-law than her own brother. She loves a good time, she is also caring and wise. Her catch phrase is ‘una calatt’ i.e. tutto in una calata (down the hatch). Her secret: she fears her husband may have mob ties.

Enrico “Harry” Terranova: 25. Italian-American. Recently deployed to the Middle East and now back home. He is his mother’s pride and joy and confounds his father, Agato. He is a brooding yet best friend to his more expansive cousin, Domenic.

Assunta DeMarco: 75. Old school South Philly matron, somewhat demented. She drinks and smokes. Something of a Greek chorus. A bit of comic relief now and then.

Jacob Scaletta (45) is for all intents and purposes a good priest who teaches at the local high school. He is a powerful, athletic man with a wrestling obsession and an erotic asphyxiation fetish. He is in love with Marc. The combination of all of the above does him in.

Joe “Jungle Joe” Avalon (deceased) is a contemporary of Marc’s. He was brought up by Rita. He worked for Agato. He is a swarthy tough guy, whose life and death touch more than one character.

Lorenzo Festa (6) is Valerie’s son, curly headed tyke who, like his mother, is Italian and Black. He is smart and something of a handful. The revelation of his paternity is a landmark for this character driven story.

Italians are the spice of life and while not everyone in Center City is Italian, it is Anna and family who are the nucleus. The history of the Fontana-De Marcos and their network of friends and family provides ample back story. Is Gaetano alive? The answer to that question and other secrets provide a backdrop for the ensuing character driven story. “A bottle of red, a bottle of white, it all depends upon your appetite. I’ll meet you any time you want in our Italian restaurant.” The tapestry of Philadelphia’s cultural diversity is the backdrop for our story. This passionate world will draw you into a complex yet endearing group of identifiable people dealing with such issues as interpersonal relationships, the hypocrisy of organized religion, gay story lines and a touch of the mob. Anna Fontana is a South Philly immigrant moved uptown to Rittenhouse Square. She wants to maintain the upward mobility of her family as well as maintain control over those things over which she has no control. She loves her family, even those who are no longer around.

Giovanni Vitacolonna
12th & Latona Productions
We are in the process of re-thinking and re-working this project into a feature. The first three episodes will now become one. We are looking for creative people for both sides of the camera to become part of the team. We are eternally grateful for all those who have supported CC in the past. Let yourself be heard!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pitching Center City

In the long history of the development of Center City there existed idea of pitching it to ABC and SoapNet with Frank Valentini as the Executive Producer. Agnes Nixon's creations, All My Children and One Life to Live were based in a fictional suburban Philadelphia where the inhabitants were often going to Center City, which is what Philadelphians call their downtown area.

The critical success of General Hospital's Nightshift was the inspiration for the idea. In an earlier incarnation Center City was called Between Two Rivers. We decided to draw on the history of the wonderful characters in Pine Valley and Llanview and have them crossover to interact with the Fontana-De Marcos and other core families who live in a fictional Philadelphia.

It's unfortunate that it looks like Agnes Nixon's "stories" will be no more even in their Prospect Park forms. SoapNet, too, will be going away permanently at the end of December. We believe there is a strong, solid market for storytelling with a long story arc. While Center City is not precisely a Soap Opera in the sense of Daytime TV's "stories" it is a serial drama with a long story arc and rich back story. We're convinced there is a place for it and we continue to pitch it where we think appropriate and continue to look for "names" to attach to it. The biggest hurdles seem to be to get the right people to look at the solid pilot script and the unique story behind it.

It could also be something of a mini-series in the vein of NBC's Dracula, i.e. a series extending for ten episodes or so. The Bible is complete in the sense that we know exactly where this story is going.

The center of the action is an Italian restaurant in Rittenhouse Square. A divorced Sicilian American mother of two grown sons struggles with the disappearance of her fraternal twin and co-owner of the restaurant she now runs to keep the family legacy alive.There is a diverse cast of characters depicting the tapestry of the Philadelphia ethnic landscape. In addition to the Italian matriarch, Anna--we had fond hopes to get Annabella Sciorra involved--there is a strong Black matriarch in the person of Marlena Festa.

Our stage readings have been memorable. General Hospital's Lisa LoCicero brought Anna to life at West Hollywood's Celebration Theatre last Spring.

Our hope is to bring a "name" into the fold, especially in the characters of Anna, Marlena, Nick and Gaetano. We have some exceptional talent attached to some of the other roles. Actors love it: "I just finished Center City and I’m really impressed. Your dialogue is real and witty and often moving– it rolls off an actor's tongue. On a personal level, its so refreshing to a read an authentic story about a piece of my beloved hometown … you have juicy, interesting, three dimensional characters living in a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story with me." ~ actor/playwright Mark Borkowski (Boardwalk Empire) Contact: papag at

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Philadelphia Table Read Redux (17 February 2013) Philadelphia Gay News

Gay, South Philly Life in Spotlight by Gary M. Kramer (Photos: Scott Drake)
South Philly native Giovanni Vitacolonna is on the path to realizing his dream of creating TV series “Center City” — about an Italian family in Philadelphia. The project, which began as a satire of both gay life and life in South Philly as a serial for now-defunct Au Courant, concerns Anna Fontana, owner of Gaetano’s, an Italian Market restaurant that has moved to Rittenhouse Square. Her two sons are Domenic, who works in the restaurant, and Marc, a friar-priest who left the priesthood and now works alongside his brother.
Eight episodes are written, and last weekend, Vitacolonna staged a reading of the pilot episode of his script at the Republican Club in Port Richmond. Richie Nuzzolese read Domenic, David Moretti performed the role of Marc and Colton Ford appeared as Father Jacob. Other actors who auditioned — Danny Donnelly [who is now attached in the role of Tommy, the former rent boy] and Daphne DiCinto as Valerie. Connie Romano read the part of Anna, the matriarch.
“Marc is the most autobiographical for me,” Vitacolonna said in an interview. “He comes from my life as a Franciscan friar and goes through what I went through in my coming-out process as a seminarian.” The writer acknowledged that the struggles Marc and Jacob have in Center City were inspired by his own experiences. “Jacob is a gay priest, but he considers himself a good priest. I know people like this who do not see the hypocrisy,” he said. The writer cast Ford in the role, he said, “because he is such a gay sex symbol.” He also effused about Moretti, “David is very intelligent, articulate and unashamed of his gayness. He brings a lot of nuance to the role that someone who wasn’t gay couldn’t.” At the Republican Club, Vitacolonna stroked his beard in a fatherly manner as various actors auditioned in cold readings [seeing the script for the first time]. Donnelly is perfect as Tommy and holds his own against Moretti in their early scene. Romano is engaging as Anna, but repeatedly flubs the name “Gaetano” to everyone’s amusement. During the read-through, the performers crack jokes and ad-lib, creating a warm, genial effect, not unlike the feeling one gets from the script. Nuzzolese kisses Daphne Di Cinto, the actor playing Valerie, his character’s fiancé, but Ford and Moretti resist a lip-lock (much to Vitacolonna’s mock disappointment) in their scene.
Ford gave his reading an unexpectedly soulful tone, while Moretti excelled in his monologue — a sermon about how the church considers and/or oppresses gay people. Nuzzolese exhibited a nice camaraderie with Romano, who plays his mother, as well as with , his character’s brother. Ford said he was drawn to the character of Father Jacob in part because “ there was a darkness and edge” he wanted to explore. While Ford has acted (with Moretti) in the TV series The Lair, he is foremost a singer. His new CD, The Way I Am, is expected out next month. “It’s probably my most mainstream, commercial, broad-based album,” he said. But the musician said acting is a different way to express his creativity, which is why he enjoys having the opportunity to do a series like Center City.
Moretti is also excited by what the series can offer him. “The character is not about being gay, but his family struggles and identity struggles and things from his past and future,” he said. “He’s more complex than just ‘the gay guy.’” Making a pilot presentation in Philly, he added, can be beneficial for getting attention from someone who might greenlight the series, although he hopes the show could become a web series that will get picked up by a network. Vitacolonna is hoping for a cable station.
While in Philadelphia, Moretti and Nuzzolese played pool at a meet-and-greet with the actors at The Bike Stop the night before the table reading. “David and I have that brotherly link already — which is great because you sometimes have a little agita when you don’t have that connection,” Nuzzolese said.The model-turned-actor, who turned heads with his abs in the Katy Perry video for “Last Fright Night,” is excited about performing in a series that is close to his heart. “The script matches me, it’s so Italian!” he said. “Giovanni did a great job in how natural he made the characters speak.”
And hopefully audiences will get an opportunity to hear and see “Center City.” While the show is in its initial stages, the table reading showed promise, and those in attendance left hungry for more. Follow Gary M. Kramer on Twitter at @garymkramer.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Anna Fontana De Marco

My parents were from a small town in Sicily and migrated to South Philly where I was born, along with my fraternal twin, Gaetano. The restaurant they opened downtown in the Italian Market area was named after my brother and it did so well we were able to re-locate uptown to Rittenhouse Square. Now, I am the only one left of the four of us. God knows what happened to Guy. One day he walked out the door to go to the market. That was it. Gone. My sons Marc and Domenic are with me now. My former husband rarely comes around and sometimes stays away for months. I used to think that when I was older, I’d know everything, I’d have all the answers. I thought when my sons would ask me, “What should I do, Ma?” I’d know exactly what to say. But nobody ever told me all the answers. They act as if they know everything, but you know how much they don’t know, because you know how much you don’t know.

On April 29, 2013 We had the good fortune of having the very talented reading the part of Anna and showcasing CENTER CITY in West Hollywood at Celebration Theatre. It speaks well of her talent that she was able to interpret the part of an older woman. She did bring elan and panache to the reading, showcasing Anna as she ought to be.