Decoder Ring Theatre is an audio drama production group based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Decoder Ring Theatre group is kind of unique among podcast audio drama groups in that the cast records the show together in the style of Old Time Radio broadcasts. Many other internet groups have actors record lines on their own for mixing at a later date.
The group was first formed in 1999 by actor-writer Gregg Taylor for a six part "Red Panda" mini-series take on the adventure programs of 1940's radio. The programs were created as a pilot project for traditional broadcast, and were quite broad and silly in the belief that a comic approach might broaden their commercial potential, but never made it to air. Taylor's next project returned to the theatre, and was also radio-based, leading him to keep using the “Decoder Ring” name. The original “Black Jack Justice” was a one-act farce about a very, very bad day in the life of an old-time detective radio series. The show was a great success at the 2001 Toronto Fringe Festival, and led Taylor to continue under the Decoder Ring Theatre title. The next year the company returned to the Fringe with “Prometheus Unplugged”, a comic take on the Promethean legends in which Mankind returns to Prometheus' mountain to inform God that he doesn't exist. Needless to say, God was less than thrilled.
The company was officially incorporated that year, and began a series of comic murder-mysteries to raise revenue for future projects. The series included “Murder Most Deadly”, “Death on the Avon”, “The Case of the Cockeyed Cupid” and so on. It was at this point that the company launched the first version of its website decoderringtheatre.com and included mp3 versions of the almost-forgotten Red Panda mini-series. Soon they were receiving email from all over the world asking for more, and Taylor began the long process of accumulating scripts, equipment and performers for an ongoing Podcast Audio Drama series.
A new, completely re-invented Red Panda continuity was launched as The Red Panda Adventures, losing the parody and playing much straighter to the conventions of old-time radio and comic books. And the eponymous play-within-a-play from Black Jack Justice was revived, with its battling central characters, and launched as a sister show. On October 15, 2005 Decoder Ring Theatre officially left behind the greasepaint and empty chairs of the theatre for the much, much bigger room of the Internet.
In 2006, the podcast was nominated for a Parsec Awards for Best Audio Drama (short), specifically for The Red Panda Adventures, and was also one of the final five nominees for the People's Choice Podcast Awards' "Cultural/Arts" category. On August 25, 2006, the first seasons of The Red Panda Adventures, and on September 12, 2006 Black Jack Justice, were made available on separate feeds at Podiobooks.com. In 2007, the podcast was again one of the final nominees for the People's Choice Podcast Awards' "Cultural/Arts" category. In 2010, Decoder Ring Theatre won the Parsec Award for Best Audio Drama (Long Form) and then the People's Choice Podcast Award in the Cultural/Arts Category.
- Red Panda Adventures
- Black Jack Justice
- Deck Gibson, Far Reach Commander (2008 Showcase Series)
- Slick Bracer, P.I. (2011 Showcase Series)
- Marvellous Boxes (2012 Showcase Series)