Figure theatre established in 1995 by Willem Verheyden at Mechelen in the Belgium province of Antwerp. The history of DE MAAN (The Moon) theatre is linked in this town with the Contryn lineage. Passionate about theatre from a young age, Jef Contryn (1902-1991), actor at the Vlaams Volkstonnel (Flemish People’s Theatre) and radio manager, became involved in puppetry. In 1941, he created the glove puppet theatre Het Spelleke van Ulenspiegel (The Ulenspiegel Little Theatre), later renamed Hopla, with which he performed travelling pushcart shows (1948). In 1965, he partnered with the town to create a children’s theatre, then is welcomed to the Cultural Centre under the name Mechels Stadspoppentheater (MSPT, Mechelen Municipal Puppet Theatre). Subsequently, in 1975, he established himself in a theatre conceived for a troupe that eventually turned professional.

Jef Contryn was captivated by the ideas of Vsevolod Meyerhold, Erwin Piscator and Konstantin Stanislavsky. A true pioneer, he was the first puppeteer in Belgium to use rod puppets. In 1943, he published the magazine De Poppenspeler (The Puppeteer) followed by other works until 1997. He created the Vlaams Verbond voor Poppenspel (Flemish Association for Puppetry) in 1962, then the famous School voor Poppenspel (School for Puppetry) in 1970 encompassing archival and museum projects which are currently grouped within the Het Firmament (The Firmament).  

In 1977, Jef Contryn’s son Louis (b.1929), who had been a young puppeteer at the Hopla, took over the management. Louis Contryn had worked in the early years of television, writing and acting in dozens of scripts. He also adapted tales and major contemporary works for the stage. In 1995, Willem Verheyden took the helm of the MSPT, renaming it DE MAAN, while Louis’ son Paul (b.1961) administered the school. Creator of masks, puppets and scenery, Paul is the resident set designer for DE MAAN, which comprises actors and puppets of all kinds.

Among the theatre’s productions: Master Peter’s Puppet Show, with rod puppets; The Jungle Book, as shadow theatre; I’m Hans Christian Andersen, black theatre; Flemish Tales, The Snow Queen, Aladdin, The Red Dragon, Peter and the Wolf, The King Without a Crown, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland.

(See Belgium.)