Four days before The Assassin opened in New York City, I was discharged from the Army. After reading the reviews the morning after the opening, I was not certain I hadn't made a mistake in allowing the Adjutant-General to relieve me from duty.
The critics, it developed, had done me more harm than the German Army. It is true that the Germans had tried to kill me, but they, at least, had missed. The critics had not missed. As tribute to their marksmanship, The Assassin closed ten days later.
Very often, when men are under fire, they ask themselves certain questions as they dig bitterly into the shaking and exploding earth: "Why am I here? How did I get here? Why didn't I have brains enough to stay out of here?" A playwright asks very much the same questions of himself on the morning after his play has been exposed to the public view.
I have had seven plays produced in New York by now, and this Preface, written from the foxhole of my discontent, in which I am surviving, but no more, is an attempt to answer for myself those questions, and one or two others. Or, to change the image, like the lover who has finally parted from the lady who has occupied his affections for many years, I look back and, with eyes cool and perhaps clear with disenchantment, weigh and re-assess under new standards.
The writer for the theatre in America today has a special relation with his audience. It is the same relation that Marie