There is a $10 fee to apply, and IF selected, the playwright must produce her or his own work and present it in the contest. Asking for a fee to submit a play to a theater is a practice that is frowned upon and discouraged by The Dramatists Guild, and has been for several years.
Contests are a grey area, to be sure, as there is a possible benefit, in that it’s possible to actually win something substantial. Though asking for playwrights to put in money in order to put in more production money for the slim possibility to win that elusive $500 seems to be taking advantage of playwrights. In their favor, Davenport Theatricals does have an open submission policy for full-length plays, if you want to get on their slush pile.
Or they have a “Script Coverage” option, where you can pay them money to actually read it and give feedback.
I will say that I did apply to the Ten-Minute Play Contest the previous two years, considering that the possible plusses outweighed the minuses, as Davenport is a legitimate producer who has been involved in shows that have been to Broadway. The judges of the finalists were prestigious (and in previous years the 10 finalists received $50 each, even if they weren’t the $500 winner).
But this year, in his blog post about the contest (linked above), Davenport goes on to be frankly offensive to playwrights. He says:
What’s great about a 10 minute play is that anyone can write one. Doesn’t matter if you’re an actor, a producer or a veterinarian who specializes in tropical hamster diseases . . . you can write a 10 minute play (huh – you know what’s funny – a hamster vet’s office is a pretty interesting place to set a 10 minute play).
And then later:
And then get writing. No excuses. Including if you’re not a writer. I promise you, you can sneeze out a 10 minute play. And then, poof, you’re a writer.
It is frankly appalling that someone in his position a) has so little respect for the craft of playwriting, and b) is apparently using this contest to lure gullible people into giving him another $10 each for something they can just “sneeze out”. In his previous blog posts on his contests, he doesn’t reveal exactly how many people actually applied, but in the 2012 contest, they were “overwhelmed with so many submissions”, “of the hundreds submitted”… So even assuming it was only (the lowest possible) 200 submissions, 200 x $10 is $2,000 from the playwrights, which should tidily cover the $500 prize plus a little left over.
It seems this contest is merely a way to bilk money out of playwrights (who I assure you work hard to create GOOD ten-minute plays), and naive wannabes with stars in their eyes.
I’m planning to avoid it this year.
Addendum: I commented directly on the original post on his blog, questioning the fees, a couple of days ago, as did another poster. Both our comments were deleted.