Credit: Illustration by Jason Wyatt Frederick

From Brianna Wellen’s introduction, “Losses and gains: Best of Chicago 2020”:

Some business to get out of the way: the reader poll results were determined by you, the readers! If you’re angry about the results, you only have yourselves to blame! Let this be a reminder to keep a close eye on when voting begins next year so you can campaign for your favorites to get the top spot. Or better yet, share your own losses and gains on social media and tag us @Chicago_Reader with the hashtags #bestofchi and #BoC2020. Tell us what made your year worthwhile, shine a light on the people, places, and things that helped you survive, and we’ll share with our followers. I should also acknowledge that a lot of writers’ picks skew to the north side, in part because we weren’t leaving our homes and that’s where many of us live. It’s something we recognize and are always working on changing—I hope this encourages all folks reading this to look beyond those borders.

Review the closed ballot to see all the finalists.

Best choreographer

Joel Hall

Runner-up: Dawn Xiana Moon

Best comics illustrator

Megan Kirby

Runner-up: Madeline Horwath

Best comics writer

Megan Kirby

Runner-up: Caroline Cash

Best dance troupe

The Fly Honeys

Runner-up: M.A.D.D. Rhythms

Best dancer

Starinah “Star” Dixon

Runner-up: Dawn Xiana Moon

Best digital sketch/improv show

Cigarette Sandwich: Power Hour

Runner-up: Quarantine: The Game Show

Best drag performer

Lucy Stoole

Runner-up: Coco Sho-Nell

Best drive-in movie programming

Music Box Theatre

Runner-up: Davis Theater

Best established theater company


Runner-up: Lookingglass

Best film programming

Music Box Theatre

Runner-up: Gene Siskel Film Center

Best filmmaker

Steve James

Runner-up: Caitlin Ryan

Best independent book publisher

Haymarket Books

Runner-up: Belt Publishing

Best live lit series

The First Time (CHIRP Radio)

Runner-up: Write Club

Best long-running play

The Fly Honey Show

Runner-up: The Infinite Wrench

Best mural

Black and Brown Unity Wall by the Mural Movement

Runner-up: I Am a Man by Darius Dennis

Best musical


Runner-up: Six

Best new local opera production

Chicago Fringe Opera’s Corsair

Runner-up: Chicago Opera Theater’s The Transformation of Jane Doe

Best new nonfiction book by a Chicagoan

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

Runner-up: Wow, No Thank You. by Samantha Irby

Best new novel by a Chicagoan

The Taste of Sugar by Marisel Vera

Runner-up: You and Me and Us by Alison Hammer

Best new play

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Isaac Gómez

Runner-up: 45 Plays for America’s First Ladies by the Neo-Futurists

Best new poetry collection by a Chicagoan

Finna by Nate Marshall

Runner-up: Big Dark Bright Futures by Growing Concerns Poetry Collective

Best new theater company

The Story Theatre

Runner-up: Newport Theater

Best nonfiction writer

Eve Ewing

Runner-up: Natalie Moore

Best novelist

Rebecca Makkai

Runner-up: Michael Zapata

Best off-Loop theater company

Raven Theatre

Runner-up: Steep Theatre

Best opera company

Lyric Opera of Chicago

Runner-up: Chicago Opera Theater

Best original digital content (Dance)

The Fly Honey Show

Runner-up: Chicago Dance History Project

Best original digital content (Theater)

Chicago Magic Lounge

Runner-up: The Infinite Wrench

Best performing arts festival

Chicago Musical Theatre Festival

Runner-up: Pivot Arts Festival

Best photographer

The Kid From Pilsen, aka William Guerrero

Runner-up: Mercedes Zapata

Best playwright

Tracy Letts

Runner-up: Ike Holter

Best poet

Eve Ewing

Runner-up: Growing Concerns Poetry Collective

Best poetry organization

Young Chicago Authors

Runner-up: Poetry Foundation

Best sketch/improv troupe


Runner-up: Cigarette Sandwich

Best stage director

Lili-Anne Brown

Runner-up: Laura Alcalá Baker

Best stage performer

Dawn Xiana Moon

Runner-up: Sydney Charles

Best stand-up comic

Sarah Perry

Runner-up: Paul Farahvar

Best street artist

Hebru Brantley

Runner-up: JC Rivera

Best theater designer (sets, light, sound, etc)

Claire Chrzan

Runner-up: Sydney Lynne Design

Best virtual film festival

Chicago International Film Festival

Runner-up: Black Harvest Film Festival

Best virtual open mike

Cole’s Bar

Runner-up: The Slam Open Mic Poetry Club

Best virtual play

The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral

Runner-up: The Big Lebowski 2

Best virtual salon


Runner-up: Raks Geek

Best virtual storytelling series

2nd Story

Runner-up: Louder Than a Mom

Best visual artist

Nick Cave

Runner-up: The Kid From Pilsen, aka William Guerrero

Best zine

Shit I’ve Cried About by Sarah Meyer

Runner-up: Radical Visibility by Rebirth Garments

Best of Chicago 2020 is
presented by

Green Thumb

Sponsored in part by

Cresco Labs