A sad man and his sad puppets. PHOTO: IZABELLA BALCERZAK

Photo: Izabella Balcerzak

This is what happens when you peak in elementary school

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By Skyler Ash

A Ryerson student has come to the “shocking” realization that he will never be cooler, smarter or as suave as he was in elementary school.

“My days at Armstrong Elementary were the best of my life,” said Noah Kilter. In the small town of Armstrong, Ontario, Kilter spent his infancy carefully cultivating his image, “only to have it fade by the sixth grade.”

Now in his third year as a puppetry major at Ryerson, Kilter has come to the conclusion that who he was as a prepubescent youth will never be better than who he is now. “I thought that things would pick up in middle school, but they didn’t,” said Kilter. “After that, I told myself high school would be my time again. Then high school came and went, and I was still just That Puppet Guy.”

As a child, Kilter wanted nothing more than to be a puppeteer. “I started learning the art—and it is an art—when I was five,” said Kilter. “My father was a puppeteer, as was his father and their fathers before him.”

Kilter said that while his antics were popular in elementary school, he has had less luck since his final elementary school performance, Into This Deep Darkness, a reflection of his time spent at home with chickenpox when he was supposed to be at Billy Richman’s seventh birthday party. “It moved me to tears,” said Richman, who now studies at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. “I didn’t know he wanted to come to my party that badly.”

When Ryerson launched its ground-breaking and innovative puppeteering program back in 2014, Kilter was the first and only student to enrol. “He’s still the only one in the program,” said Lauren Clegg, a Ryerson media relations officer. “We thought about scrapping it, but we thought that would hurt his feelings.” All staff hired to teach the program were let go two weeks in, so Kilter only pays $2,000 a semester for a small closet in Jorgenson Hall where he Googles puppetry tutorials.

“I’ve put on a bunch of shows since I started at Ryerson,” said Kilter, “but not that many people show up. I think they must have gotten the dates mixed up or something.” Kilter has put on a staggering 527 shows, but no more than 13 people have showed up to any show. “There was this one time in second year that I had a crowd of 30 people, but when they realized I wasn’t giving a campus tour, they scrambled pretty quickly.”

Kilter has come to accept that the man he is today will never be half the boy he was during his time at Armstrong Elementary. “I guess the glory days are gone,” said Kilter.

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