This month, Sarah Kaufman will play the witch in the musical “Into the Woods” at the A.R.T./New York Mezzanine Theater in Midtown Manhattan.
It’s a dream come true for the performer, who identifies as nonbinary and uses the honorific Mx. EPIC Players, a nonprofit theater company based in Brooklyn that features neurodiverse actors, is producing the musical, which is running June 8-18. “This is one of those shows I listened to on repeat since I was in middle school,” Mx. Kaufman said.
Three years ago, the theater artist and writer was diagnosed with autism. “Before getting diagnosed and getting the correct help, I was unaware of the ways my environment was affecting me,” Mx. Kaufman said. “I didn’t know what my body and brain needed in order to be successful.”
If success is measured in creative fulfillment, it has arrived for Mx. Kaufman, who, along with Shane Dittmar, the musical director for “Into the Woods,” started a nonbinary writing team called They & Them, as well as a Dungeons & Dragons-inspired fantasy musical podcast, “The Reality Shaper.”
Mx. Kaufman, 25, who has a day job at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, lives with Kai Bonacorso, 32, an educator at the New York Aquarium, on the second floor of a prewar building in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn, next to the Q train. “You can hear it going by every six minutes,” Mx. Kaufman said. “But I don’t mind anymore. It’s kind of like the ocean.”
START WITH A SONG When I’m sleeping, I wear a face mask that blocks out light and ear plugs because I’m sensory sensitive. My iPhone’s alarm is set to a sound that came with the phone and goes off at 7 a.m. My backup alarm goes off 20 minutes later — I set those songs. Before it was “Waving Through a Window” from “Dear Evan Hansen.” I recently changed it to “Non-Stop” from “Hamilton.”
UP AND OUT I get dressed in my uniform — a blue button-down shirt, because that’s the 9/11 Memorial Museum color, which is inspired by the sky, and black pants — and grab a lunch that Kai has packed. Usually it’s an Amy’s frozen meal, like cheese ravioli or the enchiladas, a banana or an apple sauce, and something from IT’SUGAR, a store in Coney Island, which we both love. They sell a snack crate filled with Japanese crackers, chips and cookies. I’m out the door when the second alarm goes off at 7:20 a.m.
CORPORATE EGG SANDWICH I get on the uptown Q or B train at Prospect Park and take that to DeKalb Avenue, where I transfer to the R. While I’m waiting, I’ll pull out my phone and order breakfast from Starbucks. There are sadly no mom-and-pop stores in Lower Manhattan. It’s just big corporations, so options are limited. When I get out at Cortland Street, my breakfast — a sausage, egg and cheese on an English muffin, and a small, iced Chai latte with light ice — is ready. I walk through the Oculus and emerge at themuseum.
NEW YORK PROUD I visited the museum in 2015 and remember thinking it was incredible. It could have been sad, but they managed to make it uplifting. A few years later, I saw a job posting on Indeed that they were hiring for visitor services. I love working here. It makes you proud to be a New Yorker. In September of 2021, I was the first membership assistant hired back after the Covid lockdown was relaxed, right before the 20th anniversary. Since then, I’ve raised over $70,000 for the museum.
RECHARGE During the week, I spend my day greeting people. Sundays, I’m at the membership desk. I take lunch at 2 p.m. It’s not eventful. I microwave my lunch, then sit in one of the break rooms with my noise-canceling headphones and watch something on my iPhone. Right now, it’s “Rise of the Pink Ladies.” I’m not a big chit-chatter on my break. This is time I need to socially recharge.
DESK JOB I’m back at the desk by 3 p.m. Afternoons are slower. I answer the phones and emails. A lot of people get membership by mistake.
SAFE PLACE Usually I go to rehearsal at the A.R.T./NY South Oxford Space, a service organization for theater nonprofits, where EPIC has offices and rehearsal rooms. I usually meet Shane, who is blind, along with Chevelle, Shane’s guide dog, accidentally on the street. Then we’ll walk the five blocks together. We started rehearsing in February. As an autistic person who has worked in many nonaccessible spaces, it’s great to have a place that feels safe.
RUN THE SHOW We usually go straight to the piano and break into a song, as theater kids do. In the beginning, Shane came in with a huge binder of Braille sheet music. I said, “Wow that’s a lot of music,” and Shane said, “That’s the opening number.” It’s the most unwieldy thing. At this point, Shane has the entire show memorized. Because we’re close to the performance date, we’re doing full run-throughs. We start around 6:30 p.m. and go till 9:30 p.m.
FOOLING AROUND One Sunday a month, I drag Kai to Caveat on Clinton Street, where my friend Emily hosts Fantasy Tavern night. People come dressed as fun characters to sing drinking songs and eat tavern food with a collection of other queer nerds. If I’m not rehearsing or doing that, Shane comes over to my place to work on new material. We usually end up recording some silly TikToks. Originally, I wanted my pals to see what I’ve been working on, but the algorithm picked up our music and brought it to musical theater fans. That’s opened doors and opportunities.
TV SHOW MUSICAL Kai, who already ate dinner, has waited impatiently for me. I’ll have leftovers and recharge while we watch TV. Right now we’re watching the second season of “Schmigadoon!” on Apple TV Plus. It’s a musical show where they pay homage to classic Broadway tropes. Kai loves it and refuses to watch it without me.
SCROLLING BEFORE SLEEP I’m in my bedroom by 10:30 p.m. or 10:45 p.m. I watch theater or Dungeons & Dragons TikToks or read on my iPhone. The Dramatists Guild has a list of upcoming opportunities for writers, so I try to stay updated on that because Shane and I apply for fellowships and writing opportunities. I’m slow to fall asleep. I have an active imagination. But once I’m asleep, I’m pretty much out.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Sarah Kaufman on Instagram @sarahtkaufman.