‘I tried to tell ya’: An excerpt from Cyrus Aaron’s play ‘Panopticon’

‘I tried to tell ya’: An excerpt from Cyrus Aaron’s play ‘Panopticon’

Read an excerpt from Cyrus Aaron’s “Panopticon,” now streaming on ALL ARTS as part of “House Seats: Fire This Time Festival”

From the playwright:

I love the way “Panopticon” starts. I always felt the scene description and opening lines of the play sum up the reality of gentrification. It seems pleasing, positive, I dare say romantic even, to take the notion of nothing and turn it into something. Everything appears to be fine. You have no idea there’s an issue or a problem fuming, and then the description starts to exit from “la-la land,” and you see what’s always existed just under the “moonlight”: The neighborhoods have always been moonlight, but how does a community respond when being called by another name, the wrong name, without losing perspective of the real winners and the real losers?

Curtis’ first line smacks you! You may not even understand why, but you better pick your face off the floor ’cause he is going to explain what’s at stake, and depending on where you stand, you may not like what he’s about to say. But as Hill replies, this isn’t the first time; we’ve been talking about this matter again and again … “I tried to tell ya.”

Excerpt from “Panopticon,” by Cyrus Aaron:

SCENE: It’s early Friday morning, and it’s already 80 degrees. Winter hung around like a stubborn ex, but relief floats in the air. Two men in their 50s/60s set up chairs on the edge of the newly rehabbed Healthy Choice Market — formerly known as Deli Corp Bodega. One of the men heads into the bodega. The bodega sports a pristine green sign that holds white lettering, with colorful images of fruits, and just below, floor-to-ceiling glass with automatic sliding doors at the center. Between the entrance and where the men have placed chairs is a bright red bench for customers. The bodega looks like it was placed on the street, like a new hotel property on a worn Monopoly board. A few feet away a metal trash can overflowing with styrofoam containers, soda bottles and aluminum foil, stands immoveable and sacred, a low-income shrine.

CURTIS exits the Bodega, but stops in amazed-disgust by the sliding doors.


(shakes his head)

I need a god damn drink; Can’t believe this jive muthafucka.

HILL: I tried to tell ya’.

Artist biography:

Cyrus Aaron is a Brooklyn-based creative writer originally from Chicago. Aaron uses the power of words to work across industries, and his commissions and client list includes: Spotify, Pyer Moss, Foot Locker, HBO, YAHOO!, BRIC and Macy’s, among others. In 2016 he wrote and produced his first play “SOMEDAY” (Wild Project), which was covered by VICE and W magazine. His plays have been performed and read at the Flea Theater and the National Black Theater. Aaron is a graduate of Michigan State University.

We’re sharing excerpts from the plays featured in “House Seats: Fire This Time Festival,” now available to stream on the ALL ARTS website and app. More information about the films and excerpts can be found here.

Top Image: "Panopticon" by Cyrus Aaron. Photo: Garlia Jones.