Sunday 25 August, 2019

Drama Association mourns death of Raymond Choo Kong

The theatre fraternity continues to mourn the death of Raymond Choo Kong who was found murdered at his home in Arima on Monday.

In a release, the National Drama Association of Trinidad and Tobago said the theatre community has lost a loved one who has touched the lives of many throughout T&T.

NDATT Past President Wendell Etienne said: “Raymond was a friend of theatre and my friend. Early in my career, Raymond welcomed me into the fold at Raymond Choo Kong Productions and he was the consummate teacher. I fondly remember his staging of “Dat Is Man!” which was a box office hit. We shared many a laugh, advice and he always supported my career. We have lost a friend.”

Actor Michael Cherrie said Choo Kong was one of the top three actors as well as one of the top producers and theatre directors in T&T. “He completely transformed the theatre community and he led its movement, which still is happening and developing, to become an industry. Raymond had a keen interest and supported all theatre companies, whether commercial and non-commercial. He believed in the work of all artists and practitioners in this field and worked hard for unity in our profession and the end of our divisions.

"He went to UWI's DCFA productions, UTT's APA productions, Necessary Arts' productions, TTW's, Big Black Box's because he believed in the continuation and progression of the discipline. He believed in what theatre could do for this place and how it can affect young people for the better because, at one time, he was one of those young people under Helen Camps. And so he gave back to his community by also being a great teacher and mentor for continuing generations under his watch. People like Richard Ragoobarsingh, Trevon Jugmohan, Debra Boucaud-Mason owe their careers to Raymond.”

Other members of the theatre fraternity, including playwright Tony Hall and T&T Performing Arts Network’s Triston Wallace, said there were no words for the feelings they had upon learning of his passing.

Bagasse Company Founder Christine Johnston said she first met Choo Kong in 1981 when he played her father in a musical at the Normandie Dinner Theatre.

“During the production, Raymond encouraged me to come down to a brand new experimental theatre group called Trinidad Tent Theatre, being run by Helen Camps. Before 1981, I'd never even considered theatre, it was nowhere on my radar.  After meeting Raymond, I can say that I owe him a debt of gratitude for introducing me to this art that I love, and even though we may have had our differences over the years and some healthy 'competition', I will always admire his talent, dedication and determination.  He was "a Chinee that got into theatre in his 30s", and he became a legend in T&T theatre.  Goodbye Raymond.  Godspeed!”

Accolades from those who Choo Kong had trained were also forthcoming. Actor, dancer and artist Elija Wilson said he was more than a mentor to him.

"He was a friend, a father figure and just someone I could talk to. He had an infectious smile and once he saw me he knew bear hugs were a thing that was just gonna happen. I always thought that he would see me get huge success in the future as he was the first one who really pushed my acting abilities. I am so confused right now.”

Actor and spoken word poet Kyle Hernandez said: “One of the last things Raymond said to me was, 'Let’s make sure we do this right so they will have no choice but to hire us again'. He was always dropping gold like that. I spent a lot of my time trying to impress him when all he cared about was the work. He showed me it was possible to be intelligent and raucous at the same time, how to think like a business mogul and still stay true to the craft. Thank you for teaching me, thank you for clearing a path.”

Various institutions, including Playwrights Workshop Trinbago, Queen’s Hall, The Trinidad Theatre Workshop, the Little Carib Theatre, and the Ministry of Community Development, Culture, and the Arts, also expressed their sorrow at the passing of Raymond Choo Kong.

“Words are always difficult to come by when a life is lost tragically. Raymond has changed the theatrical landscape of T&T and offered a platform for many a budding career. Many of today’s leading talents had a Raymond Choo Kong Production as part of their journey. We extend our sincerest condolences to Raymond’s family, friends and fraternity at this time," said NDATT Secretary Safa Niamat-Ali.

For further updates and news on the NDATT Memorial, please stay tuned to their Facebook page. 

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