Show Business: A Coney Island of the Mind

Two decades in the dreaming, the New York arts festival offers a 20th century grab bag

In the Broadway season's most acclaimed musical, Stephen Sondheim's fairy-tale adaptation Into the Woods, a smudged and hapless Cinderella repeatedly sings of her yearning "to go to the festival." She has no idea what to do when she gets there. In fact, she does not quite know what a festival is, and its reality could never match her glittering, if vague, expectations. But a festival sounds like the height of glamour and sophistication.

Somewhat like Cinderella, cultural leaders of New York City have spent the past two decades pondering, and two years preparing, the city's first International Festival of the Arts,...

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