The Red Umbrella Diaries is a feature documentary that tells the personal stories of seven diverse New Yorkers who work in different sectors of the sex trade and come together to tell their tales on stage at Joe’s Pub. Using the performances as a framing device, the film digs deep into the personal experiences of people who trade sex for a living, and illuminates the complexities and contradictions that sex workers face as they try to do right by themselves and people they care about. The storylines weave in threads that many Americans struggle with: work, family, religion, health, and community. The film explores the question: what happens when people whose voices are never heard in mainstream media take control of their own stories and how they are presented to the world?
“People love talking about sex, but what about sex work? For years the conversation existed mostly in the underground, but more recently it has crept closer to the mainstream, thanks in part to a monthly storytelling event in Manhattan known as “The Red Umbrella Diaries.” And now, sex workers are telling their stories to an even larger audience with the release of a new documentary of the same name.” – Village Voice
“So what’s the journey been like from the Happy Ending Lounge to here? Filmmaker spoke with [Audacia] Ray about her crusade to not just change the conversation around sex work – but to put it firmly back in the hands of working girls and boys (and trans-girls and trans-boys).” – Filmmaker Magazine
“The Red Umbrella Diaries digs deep into the compelling and complex stories of the seven sex workers featured in it. The cast speaks candidly about their captivating life stories, and how isolating sex work can be because it’s criminalized, judged, and stigmatized. Ray and her cast offer so much insight in this film by taking you deep into their lived experiences as sex workers that you won’t return from it unchanged or unmoved.” – Ravishly
NYC PREMIERE: DOC NYC Film Fest, Monday, November 16 at 9:30 pm at the IFC Center (323 6th Avenue).
Encore screening at Portland Film Festival, Saturday, September 5th at 2:15 pm PST, the Living Room Theaters (341 SW 10th Ave, Portland, OR).
Check out the website for the film, which also includes stories from Prose & Lore and Red Umbrella Diaries podcasts.
Since 2009, the Red Umbrella Project (RedUP) has created a safe space for sex workers from diverse backgrounds and experiences to share their stories, their frustrations, their triumphs and tragedies at a monthly storytelling event, the Red Umbrella Diaries, at Happy Ending Lounge (a former massage parlor turned cocktail lounge) in New York City’s Lower East Side. More than 100 sex workers have told their stories at the Diaries over the years, and now its time for a bigger venue and a celebration of some of the series’ brightest stars. On November 14, 2013 seven Diaries performers took the stage at Joe’s Pub – and we’ve documented the performers on their journey.
A note on the Red Umbrella Diaries monthly events: We had the honor of producing monthly events at Happy Ending on the Lower East Side from July 2009 through September 2013. At our show on September 5, 2013 we learned that the bar would be closing. We decided not to seek another venue for a monthly event. Instead, we will be producing events several times a year (at least quarterly, probably more often) at bars, bookstores, and community centers around NYC to celebrate new issues of our literary journal Prose & Lore, and other events too. For more info on this decision, read our Tumblr post.