I can't ever remember seeing a release form in the theatre, but as Leon said, they're quite common in film (in fact, most companies won't read your screenplay without one unless it's submitted by a lawyer or an agent). Particularly if these folks come from a film background, it may be that they're just used to covering themselves against any accusations of idea theft.
I don't have a problem signing one, but it seems a little overboard for a one-act, and the no money thing is much more of a sticking point.
i believe a release form is a legal thing for those in the film business. it protects them from people who claim that their script ideas were stolen. sometimes, two identical ideas are submitted. and what you're doing by signing the form is releasing the company of its tort, and also agreeing to arbitrate any disagreements in the company's home state (usually california) and sometimes agreeing to pay legal fees if your claim is ridiculous.
no one is allowed to use your "work" without paying you. so i wouldn't worry that tbd is going to steal your play.
As it happens, Mr. Davis today replied to an earlier e-mail I'd sent about the fest, asking about previously produced work. I took the opportunity to ask about the release. His reply, directly quoted:
"First, your play will not be performed without notification of performance dates. The release is a contract between TBD and you that we are allowed to use your script royalty free for the CONCEPTS: PLAYWRIGHTS ONE ACT PLAY FESTIVAL. It covers you that we are only going to use your scrpt for the festival. And it covers us that we don't have to pay you to use the script in the festival. This is giving opportunity for playwrights to have their work seen and produced in a New York Off-Off Broadway Equity Theatre."
It's possible that these folks are doing two separate things. While I don't agree with the whole "release form" thing--and wouldn't sign one--the posting here does mention a "one-act fest" while the link Paddy posted spefically talks about a film fest.
Still, until there's some kind of solidity, I'd refrain from subbing.
This sounds great doesn't it? And it is a nice idea.
But, hoooooooooold on a minute!
Who/What exactly is TBD Productions?
What the heck do they mean by a "Release Form?!!!!" Whaaaaaat?
We do not sign "Release Forms" in the theatre. Sounds like film. Or a print ad. They have "release forms."
A release for what rights specifically? You do not sign a "Release Form" to get your play produced. You enter into a contract, and you are the sole owner of the rights to your play until you enter into a bonafide contractual agreement specifying exactly what the contract is about. You don't "Release" your play. To whom? For What?
Or you enter into an "Option Agreement." And options have time limits. 6 months...a year with an option to renew.
Notice, there is no monetary compensation from TBD Productions. So do not give up ANY RIGHTS to ANYONE without monetary or other agreed upon compensation and that SOLID CONTRACT. The Dramatists Guild has various contracts you can purchase even by non-members. But, if you an afford the $95 per year it is worth joining.
Is this for certain going to be an Equity Showcase production or non-Equity and at which theatre? They do not even specify the theatre. They say "one of the top Equity Showcase" theatres. That does not mean it has to be an Equity production. Well, which one?
I would like to know more about who/what actually is TBD Productions before I would submit anything to them. There is no website with information identifying who they are.
It says, "All productions are independently funded." By Whom?
"Playwrights will receive performance schedules." Well, is the playwright allowed to attend rehearsals and have input on casting, etc., which is guaranteed by the Dramatists Guild contract? This is why it is dangerous to sign a "Release form." Is the playwright allowed professional and family comps?
There are a thousand more questions to be asked. I hope Mr. Tony B. Davis will answer them for us. How about a website first? With specifics.
I say: "Caveat Emptor"- "Let The Buyer Beware!" Till there is more info. forthcoming.