“When a society is afraid of its poets, it is afraid of itself. A society afraid of itself stands as another definition of hell.” — Lenore Kandel, San Francisco, 1967


"Michael McClure's THE BEARD is a mysterious piece of work…almost as if ghosts from two periods of the American past were speaking across decades to each other…" 
—Norman Mailer

. "…a milestone in the history of heterosexual art." 
—Kenneth Tynan

"…juicy and exuberant…" 
—Allen Ginsberg

According to Rod Phillips, author of the 2003, Michael McClure, McClure was the youngest and one of the most politically active members of the San Francisco beat scene. He writes, "Michael McClure was a key transitional figure between the Beat movement and the rapidly emerging counterculture of the city’s Haight-Ashbury district. Along with Gary Snyder, Timothy Leary, and Allen Ginsberg, he was one of the leaders of 1967’s Great Human Be-In, the famed ‘Gathering of Tribes’ that drew tens of thousands of hippies to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for a day of chanting, music, and revolution, the event that launched the city’s famed ‘Summer of Love’.”

The Beard is one of the most controversial plays of the modern theater. Exploring the nature of seduction and attraction, it portrays an explosive confrontation between Jean Harlow, the platinum blonde movie star, and Billy the Kid, the baby-faced, quick-tempered outlaw.

In all, nineteen court cases centered on the play, with charges of obscenity, lewd behavior in public, and conspiracy to commit a felony. The eventual dismissal of these charges marked an important step in establishing the limits of censorship in the theater.