When Brigid Murphy was 12 years old she competed in a run hosted by the city of Sycamore, Illinois. Though she won, the town fathers decided not to give her the first-place trophy because she lived a few miles outside Sycamore. So her mother had a trophy made with Brigid’s name engraved at the base and took her out to dinner. She told her daughter that it really didn’t matter what the town fathers thought–everyone knew she won.

When Murphy told me this story, some months ago, she said it showed not only how much her mother loved her but how important it is to have an inner awareness, separate from society’s dictums, of the way things are. That awareness has informed Murphy’s work as a performance artist and as a producer–no one in this city has supported and influenced other artists quite like the irreverent, dynamic onetime Loyola physics major, who gathered all sorts of performers for her long-running Milly’s Orchid Show at Park West. Recently Murphy was diagnosed with lymphoma and is now undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment. To offset the costs, friends and local performers have organized a benefit, “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” on July 26.

The show will be hosted by two monologists–both Orchid Show regulars–enfant terrible David Sedaris and the caustic and witty Cheryl Trykv. It will include appearances by cartoonist Lynda Barry; comedian Nora Dunn; “the funniest ‘real woman’ in America,” Poppy Champlin; performance artist Marcia Wilkie; Poi Dog Pondering’s Frank Orrall; John “Sinatra” Connors; and Barry Winograd’s Alternative Big Band; plus other, surprise guests. Throughout the evening artworks by Hollis Sigler, Mike Lash, Tony Fitzpatrick, and Susanna Coffey, among others, will be auctioned or raffled off. The Blue Man Group performance-art troupe have donated for auction a package that includes airfare to New York, dinner with the group, and tickets to their show.

“Let’s Face the Music and Dance” begins Monday at 8 at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage. Tickets are $20, or $50 for the show and the buffet dinner, which begins at 5:30. They’re available in advance at Mahaney Jones, 1125 W. Webster, and Unabridged Books, 3251 N. Broadway. For more information about tickets call 549-7171 or 883-9119; to make a straight donation call the Living Arts Fund at 528-4526 or write to 650 W. Arlington, Chicago, 60614.