beth murphy (1955-2023)
Beth Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Bleachers and Mrs Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro - a longtime venue for Chicago’s storefront theaters - died after a long bout with kidney cancer.
Over the years, Beth and her husband Jim provided a consistent haven and stalwart support for theater artists, musicians, and storytellers by offering their upstairs space at Mrs. Murphy’s for readings, benefits, rehearsals and many, many many theater benefits.
Murphy grew up in Albany Park, and after graduating from Northwestern with a degree in journalism, she moved into an apartment across the street from Wrigley. She worked as a buyer for Marshall Field’s, focusing on modern dresses and gourmet foods, before taking a job at Long Grove Confectionery. After marrying Jim Murphy, a former Chicago cop who bought the bar in 1980 and renamed it Murphy’s Bleachers, she eventually became his right hand as the two worked to improve the bar and the neighborhood around Wrigley Field. In 2005, they opened Mrs Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro, which she operated with her husband and their sons two stepsons James and Brian Murphy.
Beth was also known for treating her employees well. Her businesses didn't have issues with hiring like a lot of other establishments, and many of her employees have health insurance, something almost unheard of in the bar industry.
When the news of her death was announced, a slew of theater companies - still producing and now defunct - were quick to sing her praises for the many shows, readings, and fundraisers hosted by the theater-friendly venue. Some of the theaters who have used the venue include: A Red Orchid Theatre; American Theatre Company; Seanachai Theatre (now known as Irish Theatre of Chicago); Route 66 theater; 20% Theatre company; BYOT (Bring Your Own Theatre); Laughing Stock Theatre; Do Not Submit; This Much Is True; Starlight Radio Dreams; Solo Sundays; Birch House Immersive; Ghostlight Theater Co.; Edge of Orion; Shadow Carriers; Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company; Rediscover Theatre; Three Cat.
Stef Tovar, founder of Route 66: “I had known Beth since my days at American Theater Company. When I formed Route 66 back in 2008, Beth hosted our very first fundraiser. She was always so supportive of our company—allowing us to use Murphy’s Bistro as the venue for our reading series, where A Twist of Water – a play by Caitlin Montanye Parrish, created with director Erica Weiss and later transformed into the short-run television series The Red Line – was born. Some of our best fundraisers took place there.”