The Dutch brought the weather with them last night to the opening of the New Island Festival, a massive, multi-disciplinary arts event that runs through the end of next weekend. Weather on the island was cool and damp, but the periods of light rain only enhanced the spirit of festive, Autumnal, colonial isolation. Each batch of visitors exiting the free ferry from lower Manhattan were greeted by a parody ribbon-cutting committee, who thrust giant scissors into the hands of one random newcomer as if he or she was an honored dignitary. That whimsical greeting sets the tone for the rest of the festival, which is spread out in different nodes around the island. The center, if there is one, is "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams," a rather magical carnival tent encampment ringing a cabaret stage and a loooong football field-sized wooden table, on which chefs dash back and forth serving Dutch food for $6 a plate.
Fires flicker throughout the "Boulevard," mainstream Dutch beer is imbibed (Heineken and Amstel, plus wine), and various performances unfold inside and outside the tents, including work from brilliant director Ivo van Hove and a haunting jazz exploration of Monteverdi's Orfeo, which climaxes with a big Mediterranean dinner. The outdoor music, dance, and comedy in the Boulevard of Broken Dreams is free; but the shows in the tents charge admission—buying a $35 one-day "passport" gets you in, space permitting, plus a silent disco, people! It's unclear what's so Dutch about people dancing with headphones while singing about it "getting hot in here and taking off their clothes," but it's certainly good for a laugh.
There really hasn't been a better time to check out Governors Island, assuming it ever stops raining. This weekend and next (Thursday through Sunday) the ferries will run back to Manhattan until midnight, giving you abundant time to explore the myriad offerings, which range from performer Theo Botschuijver's water walk stunt to the ambitious "Pioneers of Change" festival of Dutch design, to an interactive radio play called Space, to the dance party on Water Taxi Beach. There's simply way too much happening to compile here, and that's reason enough to take the ferry. Update: Unfortunately, thanks to the crummy weather, today's events are cancelled, but "All activities, events, and performances will resume Saturday September 12th!"