Raymond Choo Kong remembered as father of theatre community
The father of the theatre community.
That is the way Raymond Choo Kong has been described by Nikki Crosby as she and others in the theatre community grappled to come to terms with his death.
Choo Kong was found dead at his Arima home today.
Speaking to Loop, the very distraught comedienne and actress said Choo Kong was the father of the theatre community.
“Trinidad and Tobago has lost a gem. Raymond was family. Everything I learned in theatre was from him. He was an excellent director and he was so funny. He was one of the funniest men on stage and this is why it is so heartbreaking that he would die like this stabbed and in pain. It is almost like we lost a father,” she said.
“I have lost my father that is how he was to all of us, loving and caring. I learned the producing side, the business side of the business from him. I cannot imagine our life in theatre without Raymond.”
Crosby said she was asleep when news of Choo Kong's murder broke and dreamt him waving to her.
Veteran actress Penelope Spencer said T&T has lost one of the greatest theatrical icons we have had in the last 25 years.
“We have lost such an ion, he was a producer, actor, director. He wasn’t a big playwright but he wrote his stories from his perspective. One of them was about this Chinese man and his experiences as a Hakwai. Raymond’s father came from China and married his mother, who was Spanish,” she revealed.
Spencer said Choo Kong was always discovering new people and was, up until his death, teaching a Masterclass in Theatre.
“He never stopped even though the man was walking with a cane. This town don’t know what it lost.”
Wendell Manwarren, a close friend and collaborator of Choo Kong’s, was lost for words.
“It is a little too much and too weird and too strange. I was having a meeting today to organise his 70th birthday party,” he said before breaking down.
Choo Kong would have celebrated his birthday on August 5.
He was the leader in comedic theatre and was known for such plays as ‘Diary of a Bad Red Woman”, “Run for Yuh Life”, "Party Done for the Freak Next Door", "Trapped in the Hen House" and “Everybody Loves Raymond”.
He directed the award-winning “Mary Could Dance” and “Norman Is That You” and was also involved in the production of musicals with First Instinct Productions that did local adaptations of The Sound of Music, the King and I and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Choo Kong started his career producing plays in 1989 in Arima.
Below are some tributes to the late actor, producer and director.
Arima Mayor Lisa Morris-Julian
Arima Borough Council is disheartened to hear of the unfortunate and untimely passing of popular entertainer, Raymond Choo Kong. Not only was Mr. Choo Kong known for his work in the arts but, in Arima, he was cherished as an established entrepreneur and generous philanthropist. His family is known to the Council as one which has helped to establish the borough and develop its people. Arima will deeply mourn the loss of one of its icons, Mr. Choo Kong as the Arima Borough Council extends its deepest condolences to his family and friends. The Council intends to remember Mr. Choo Kong by his vibrant personality and stellar accomplishments. Furthermore, the Council has faith that the TTPS would bring justice swiftly to the grieving family.
Keino Swamber, Actor
I like so many others are devastated. It is difficult to put words to describe the kind of person Raymond was and the kind of contribution he made. I and so many others learned so much from him as a director, producer, actor and as far as comedic theatre in Trinidad and Tobago is concerned. I think Raymond is the best because I was able to work with him and see his process. He was a truly remarkable human.
Randall Mitchell, Minister of Tourism and MP for San Fernando East
I am saddened to learn of the passing of a legend in Trinidad's theatrical sphere, Mr. Raymond Choo Kong. His name has always been synonymous with high-quality stage productions as an actor, producer or director. This weekend, San Fernando would have benefitted from his brilliance as he was due to host a workshop in the city. On behalf of San Fernando East, I extend condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Mr. Choo Kong. This is a huge loss to us all.
Ministry of Community Development, Arts and Culture
Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, Dr. Nyan Gadsby-Dolly joins the entire cultural fraternity and the nation in mourning the loss of a cultural icon, Raymond Choo Kong. Raymond Choo Kong dedicated much of his life to enriching Trinidad and Tobago’s theatre landscape and changing our understanding of the arts.
Minister Gadsby-Dolly said, “We are shocked by the untimely passing of Raymond Choo Kong, the beloved actor, playwright, producer and theatre icon.”
“Choo Kong saw the necessity in passing on the vital knowledge he had to the younger generations and was one of the Ministry’s Mentors for the 2019 Mentoring by the Masters Programme,” she said.
Choo Kong gave us plays so that we could understand our Trinbagonian identity and cherish our unique expression. Raymond Choo Kong was a celebrated producer, director, and actor who changed the landscape of Trinidad’s theatre through comedy for the past 40 years. He accomplished this through his company, Raymond Choo Kong Productions, a well-established theatre production house, which he founded. Choo Kong received a total of 18 Cacique Awards in all categories, making him the holder of the most Cacique Awards.
The Ministry of Community Development Culture and the Arts is immensely grateful for Choo Kong’s invaluable contributions and extends deepest condolences to the family, friends and theatre community at this time of loss.
Anthony Garcia, MP for Arima
It gives me no pleasure at this time to offer condolences to the family of Mr Raymond Choo Kong. For many of us who live in Arima, we knew of Raymond either for his acting prowess on stage and screen. A contributing member to the Arima community, Raymond Choo Kong and his family have been known to many of us through their works in aiding to build and shape Arima.
As investigations are underway and continuing into his tragic death, I pray that the Choo Kong family, the theatre fraternity throughout Trinidad and Tobago and all who would have been impacted by Raymond in any major or minor way can find a morsel of solace in knowing that he lived a full life. A name that is not only known locally but regionally and internationally. How he left this earth will be at the forefront of our minds at this time but we must cherish and honour his memory by keeping all the good that he did alive.
We cherish his legacy and mourn his loss alongside his family and friends and the people of Arima.
Congress of the People
It is with a heavy heart that we've learned of the death of award-winning veteran actor, producer and director Raymond Choo Kong who died in a suspected homicide at his home in Arima today. Mr Choo Kong has been a national icon for many years who has transformed the national landscape through his comedic works in theatre. For years, Mr Choo Kong has used the theatre stage not only to entertain through his creative comedic work but often times, it has been a platform used to transmit feelings and ideas through art and performances that has to ability to influence people’s attitudes and mentalities, and thus effectively and pacifically addressing their needs and challenges. Indeed, theatre and art has been a place where both actors and audiences address their own individual and social issues and can contribute to mending the societal fabric by challenging and communicating educational, social and political messages or sometimes, simply providing reprieve and an outlet for artistic expression and entertainment. Mr Choo Kong in many ways has given us all these gifts through his workshops, productions and other commitments to his community and country.
We mourn his loss and extend deep condolences to his family, friends, the theatre community and the national community, all of whom undoubtedly feel his loss today. We hope for justice for his death and for his work to live on always.
It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of our friend Raymond Choo Kong.
Raymond established himself as an award-winning pillar and icon of theatre in Trinidad and Tobago. He added the accolades of actor, director, entrepreneur and accomplished producer to his name. Raymond lived as a fearless example of love and compassion to our community and for this we thank him.
We offer our condolences to his family and friends and pray that they find comfort in this time. RIP Raymond Choo Kong. We love you.
David Lee (UNC Chairman)
I am deeply saddened by the death of one of our local legends, Raymond Choo Kong. Raymond was one of the most talented individuals you could ever meet. What was so inspirational about his work was the fact that his work was based on making others happy. Many of our citizens relished the opportunity to go to his brilliant plays. Many others who didn't go still looked forward to hearing the ads on television or radio where he would give funny snippets of the upcoming shows. May God rest his soul in peace. We have lost a truly incredible human being.