Raymond Choo Kong, a mentor and a friend. Never sugar coated a thing. He always challenged us in rehearsal, he wanted us to “be dynamic”. I don’t think he just meant on stage. I hope because of his impact on my life that one day I will be. For all the work he continued to instill in us, I hope we all get to a state of dynamism. I miss him and love him dearly, may his soul rest in peace.
From left: Kala Neehall, Raymond Choo Kong & Renee King. Photo courtesy Renee King
I’m torn between grief and anger at the loss of Raymond Choo Kong. Though I never got the chance to work with him directly, I respected his contributions to theatre in T&T. My condolences to his family, friends and all who knew him.
Marvin Ishmael – NDATT President
I admired his sense of timing, his skill at being able to be still,his support of all theatre artists , the way he changed the theatrical landscape of T&T. Always showing up at the show and giving new voices the opportunity to be heard. I wanted more conversations. You will be missed.
Wendell Etienne – Former NDATT President
Raymond was a friend. A friend of theatre and my friend. Very 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 officer hit. We shared many a laugh, advice and he always supported my career. We have lost a friend.
To say that Raymond ChooKong changed the face of Trinidad Theatre is an understatement. He debunked this myth around poor starving artists. He made theatre a business and us actors paid professionals for our work. Prior to that we basically performed for a cast party at the end.
I recall when he opened Space Theatre. Here was an alternative theatre space in the city that wasn’t guaranteed to put you out after the show as was the habit of Ms Roebuck at the Little Carib Theatre. Theatre people are the ultimate limers, so when the play is done for the night, ample doses of lime is imminent. Back in the day the lime would begin outside the Carib when management hustled you out. We would then convene at the Cricket Wicket opposite the Oval, and the liming there was to the extent of one’s liver capacity I suppose.
Therein comes Raymond’s Space Theatre inside Breton Hall and we were now legit in the after performance limes. No putting out there for sure. From the theatre space to The Space Bar, two steps away. Now in these times of Pride and the GLBTQ community gaining momentum after the Jones vs Trinidad and Tobago judgement, Raymond’s Space Theatre gave space for the weekly Lamda meetings headed by that other theatre and queer pioneer, Godfrey Sealey.
Raymond gave actors and wannabe actors a forum to perform outside the theatre season with his DIVA competition during the carnival season. This drag performance competition was the creme de la creme in drag shows. I was the first actor brave enough to perform at this competition as a drag king and what a stir that was. In those days we respected each other’s desires of not wanting to be photographed or videotaped, so alas there is no electronic record of my DIVA sojourn.
Raymond Choo Kong was certainly a Trinidad theatre and performing arts pioneer whose contribution should be documented and awarded nationally albeit too late now.
RIP…the top theatre producer, director…and the best actor Trinidad & Tobago has ever seen…completely transformed the theatre space, community and industry here for the better…I’m speechless…I have absolutely no words…this is place is Hell – no question….make new and wonderful vibrations in that realm of Light with the Creator…Godspeed, my Friend….my deepest condolences to his family and all our theatre family…..
I met Raymond in 1981. I’d auditioned for a musical being run at the Normandie Dinner Theatre and (amazingly) got the female romantic lead… Raymond played my father. 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 30’s”, and he became a legend in T&T theatre. Goodbye Raymond. Godspeed!