Summary: A humorous look at evangelism using the metaphor of fishing. A host of characters approach the challenge with various techniques and opinions, culminating into a debacle that no-one is prepared for.
Style: Light-hearted. Duration: 12min
Actors: 6M, 2F, 5M/F
Matt Keen but somewhat uneducated about fishing. Unable to decide on a good spot to fish.
Josh Friend of Matt’s, impatient.
Sam Self-confessed fishing ‘veteran’, passionate, slightly loopy. Reminisces about the “good ol’ days”.
Felicity Believes that souls need food, not catching. Believes there’s a friendlier and unobtrusive way to catch fish.
Master Enjoys teaching his pupils about the art and craft of fishing – the theory anyway. Has written a manual about fishing.
Fans (x 4) Pupils of the master, soaking up his every word.
Arnie A New-Age fisher with a New Age instrument. Prefers to fish “on the other side”.
Pete Prefers quantity to quality. Fishes with a net.
Sarah Adopts a ‘personal’ touch by fishing with a hand reel.
Diver Non-speaking role.
(A sunny day by the water’s edge. Matt enters, nothing in hand, scoping out the scene.)
Matt: Hurry up, Josh! I want to get the best spot. And bring the gear from the car, would you?
Josh: Yeah, yeah, I’m coming. (Enters with an armful of fishing gear and deck chairs). Man, you’d think we were fishing for a week at this rate.
(Matt is looking into the water, Josh follows and is about to set down the gear when Matt moves to the other side to look.)
Matt: This looks like a good spot. No wait… it’s clearer over there. Less pond scum. But actually… there’s a lot of rocks… Don’t want to get a snag.
Josh: Matt, the only snag we’ll be getting is the one with onions and bread if you don’t make up your mind.
Matt: Don’t rush me, Josh. Fishing for souls is not something to be rushed into. Too many people just throw in their lines without being thinking about placement. You can’t just drop a line in anywhere, because chances are you’ll probably get tangled in a bunch of seaweed.
Josh: I thought you said it was pond scum?
Matt: … Or pond scum… either one…
Josh: You don’t know whether this is salt water or fresh water, do you?
Matt: Yes I do. (Guessing) ..It’s salt water. (Second-guessing) ..Or maybe it’s fresh water…
Josh: Matt! So you brought us here not even knowing what type of fish to go for?
Matt: No.. well, sort of… It doesn’t really matter, they’re all the same mostly.
Josh: No they’re not!
Matt: Yes they are. Besides, it’s not so much the fish as it is the location. As they say, “location, location”!
Josh: So you mean it’s better to be in the best spot with the worst fish than be in the worst spot with the best fish..?
Matt: (Confused) Something like that.
Josh: So long as there’s fish, I guess.
Matt: (Looking down into the water) Hey! I think I see something!
Josh: What? What is it? (Peering down next to Matt)
Matt: It’s big, ugly, and has a pea for a brain.
Josh: (Realising) Very funny, Robson Green. (Insert other well-known fishing personality). Can we find a spot so I can put all this gear down?
(Sam enters. He is a cocky young man with the latest high-tech equipment.)
Sam: How are you two whippersnappers going? No bites yet?
Matt: We don’t know, we’re still finding the best perch.
Josh: Yeah and genius here isn’t even sure if it’s salt water or fresh water.
Sam: Oh, I think you’ll find it’s definitely salt water. And I’d know. I’ve been fishing here for three years. Three! They say the average youth leader lasts six months. Not me, boys. Nope, I’m in for the long haul. As the apostle Paul once said, “For me, to live is Christ, and to fish is gain.” (Matt and Josh exchange looks) And over those years, I tell you, I’ve learnt a few things. It’s not enough to just cast your line in and hope for a fish. No. You’ve got to be the soul. To catch whiting, you have to be the whiting (makes a fish face). To catch squid, you have to be the squid (moves arms in a squid-like fashion). To catch flathead you need to be a flathead…
Josh: (Aside, to Matt) Just about sums it up for me.
Matt: (To Sam) What do you use for bait?
Sam: Bait? No bait for me, sonny. You’ve got it all wrong. The tried and tested method is lures. Oh, I’ve got lures for every occasion. (Opens tackle box and takes out a lure) This one’s for squid. (Begins to imagine) They love this one because it’s bright and shiny and it darts through the water like a juicy fish ready to be seized (seizes) by your left tentacle and chomped on with your hungry beak. (Chomps) Oh yeah. (In ecstasy he forgets he’s talking to them.)
Matt: (To Josh) … Right. OK, well, good luck, mate. (They start to walk away)
Sam: (Snapping out of it) Luck? Luck’s got nothing to do with it. (Gets another lure) This baby here is one of the new plastics, it’s the one they use on the TV show iFish. Not only does it look like a fish, it even smells like a fish. Here, smell this. (Shoves in their face) Can you smell it? Go on, take a big whiff!
Josh: (Smelling politely) ..It’s very nice.
Sam: It’s heaven, that’s what it is, sonny. (Another lure) And this one here spins as it flies in the water. The trevally can’t get enough of it.
Matt: So which one are you going to use today?
Sam: Everything sonny! Everything! Just chuck it on the one rod and hope for the best!
Matt: But won’t they just get tangled?
Sam: Believe me sonny, I’ve been doing this for practically decades and it works like a treat! In the good ol’ days I used to catch triple headers – that’s right, three at once. We were catching fish like there was no tomorrow – left, right and centre. It was a maritime revival, we were just bending down and catching them by hand!
Josh: Wow, really?
Sam: Yeah, and some fish just jumped straight from the water and into our buckets. It’s like they were so ready they just couldn’t wait. It was an incredible time.
Matt: That’s amazing!
Sam: It sure was, sonny. Those were the days. But nowadays it’s all about lures. When I get my rod set up I’ll lend you a lure if you’re keen. Show you how it’s done.
Josh: OK, that’d be great. Where are we sitting, Matt?
Matt: How about you sit on one end and I’ll sit on the other. We can swap places at five minute intervals. I’ll start up that end…. No wait, you start that end and I’ll start this end.
Josh: Whatever! (Goes to the far end and puts the gear down. Throughout the play Matt and Josh swap places periodically, disagreeing about where to sit. Their lines never make it in the water.)
(Felicity enters carrying a bucket with a big love heart on it.)
Fel: Hey fishy-fishies! How are you all today? Hello Sam.
Sam: (Groans) Hi, Felicity.
Fel: Catch anything yet with those ghastly lures? The poor babies, just trying to eat their dinner when before they know it they are caught with a hook in their heads! Poor things.
Sam: Leave it alone, Felicity. This method of soul-fishing has been tried and tested all over the world. You can’t argue with research.
Fel: I’m sorry, I won’t leave it alone! It might do the trick, Sam, but do these fish actually get what they are looking for? They want food Sam, not a hook!
Sam: They want a new life.
Fel: They want dinner. (Pulls out of the bucket a loaf of bread and pulls a small piece off.)
Sam: What are you doing?
Fel: Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”
Sam: He didn’t mean it literally!
Fel: How do you know? Have you asked him? Now I’ve read the Bible and nowhere in the back does it explain which parts are literal and which parts are metaphor. Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” My bible study group believe that part’s a metaphor. (Pause) For fish.
Sam: But you won’t catch anything if you just throw bread out!
Fel: Who cares? That’s not the only purpose of life, Sam. These fish need feeding, not catching. If we feed them regularly enough, over time they’ll begin to trust us and wonder what else we might have for them. They don’t have to be caught against their will you know.
Sam: You have no idea what you’re talking about.
Fel: Not all fish are the same Sam. There are other methods. (Is about to throw some bread in the water.)
Sam: Don’t you dare! Give that to me! (Tries to grab the bread from her hand. Felicity squeals and tries to fight back.)
Fel: Aah! Help! I’m being attacked!
Sam: Step away from the bread Felicity!
(They fight until Sam grabs the bread and eats it. Suddenly realising, they simultaneously grab the loaf of bread and fight over it. Master enters with fan club not far behind, hanging on his every word.)
Mastr: (Observing the argument) Ah, watch and learn my pupils, this is not the way to soul-fish. Look at the animosity between these two. I ask you, does it benefit the fish? No. It benefits no-one.
Fans: (Thoughtfully) Mmm…
(Sam and Felicity take the fight offstage.)
Fan#1: Teach us more, o wise one.
Fan#2: Yes, please do, Master!
Mastr: I will. But first let’s find a spot and nestle together. (They sit in a semi-circle around him, holding his gear for him when needed.) Open up your handbooks to page three please. (They open their books) Now, study the waters, pupils. Study the current and the waves, the blowing of the breeze and the rising and falling of the tide. (Imitating the tide) Rise….. fall. Rise….. fall. Rise….. fall. It’s a cyclic process that goes around and around and around (his head goes round as he speaks). Let your heads feel the motion. (Their heads go round in circles while he speaks the words:) Around and around and around.
Fan#3: I feel sick.
Mastr: Now, take a deep breath in, fill your lungs .. (they do) .. and out again. (they do.) Are you ready to fish for souls today my pupils?
Fans: Yes, we are!
Mastr: I will asj again: are you really ready? Are you really ready? Are you adequately trained to handle the catch that we are going to haul in?
Fans: (Thoughtfully) Mmm…
Fan#4: We have a large bucket, master.. maybe it’s not enough?
Fan#1: You’re right. I’ll go get another one from the car. (Exits)
Mastr: I was speaking rhetorically, but oh well. Now think carefully about it, pupils. What else will you need when we catch a fish?
Fan#2: Some pliers, to get the hook out.
Mastr: Very good. And what else? (They think of what it might be.) You need a system. After all, fishing for souls is a gradual process. We need someone to fish, someone with the pliers, someone with the bucket, and someone to encourage everyone.
Fan#3: I’ll encourage.
Fan#2: I’ll hold the pliers.
Fan#1: (returning) And I’ll hold the buckets.
Mastr: Very good. And I’ll fish. So here's what you do. Rod please. (Fan#3 hands the rod) Now this one is just for practice, my pupils – as you can see it has a cork on the hook. There are many different kinds of hooks. Whatever you do, don’t use rusty hooks.
Fans: (Thoughtfully agreeing) Mmm… (They note in handbooks)
Fan#2: My hooks look quite rusty actually. What do you think? (Shows #3) Maybe I should dash off and get some better ones. Master, would you be so kind as to hold these pliers for me while I’m gone? Thank you! (Exits)
Mastr: (Takes pliers with rod in other hand) OK, well be not long, my child. Now where was I?
Fan#1: You were teaching us about hooks, master.
Mastr: That’s right, hooks. Observe and learn now, this is how you bait a hook, my pupils. (Looks for bait) Where is our bait?
Fan#3: Here it is master. Fresh worms, dug up this morning.
Mastr: Very good, very good. I will refrain from baiting the hook today because this is merely a theoretical lesson. But imagine in your mind that I had the worm in my hand. Can you imagine it?
Fan#1: (Closes his eyes) Yes, master. (Opens eyes)
Mastr: Now what one does is hold the hook with the right hand, and .. (needs to free his other hand so passes pliers to Fan#1) .. uh, could you hold this for me, my child?
Fan#1: Oh no I couldn’t master, I’m holding the buckets.
Mastr: OK (to #3), well could you take it for a moment?
Fan#3: But I’m the encourager..
Mastr: (Frustrated, continues sharply with all dignities out the window) Fine, I’ll just do it myself. Basically what you do is, you take the cork off the stupid hook (struggles with cork and pliers, so puts pliers in mouth) and (mumbles the rest of the sentence, reaching for the bait and trying to do everything himself. After a long and ridiculous struggle he gets the worm on and shows them all, panting and frustrated.) There. See?
Fans: (Thoughtfully admiring) Mmm… (They note in handbooks)
Mastr: (Taking pliers out of his mouth) So that’s how you bait a hook, pupils. But of course that’s hypothetically speaking. Today we’re just using the cork. It’s up to you, my pupils, to translate all this when you’re using real worms. You cast your line in, like so (casts line in a funny way), and then you wait for a bite.
Fans: (Thoughtfully) Mmm…
(They wait for a while in silence.)
Fan#3: (Thinking of something to say) ..Well done master!
Mastr: Thank you.
(More silence and waiting.)
Fan#1: Any nibbles?
Mastr: Of course not, it’s only a cork.
Fan#1 :So what do we do now, master?
Mastr: My child, when you use real bait, you’ll get a bite and you’ll know.
Fan#1: Oh. (Notes in handbook)
Mastr: But for this lesson so we’ll just use the cork. Your turn. (He hands #1 the rod and they all sit around waiting.)
(Felicity rushes in flinging pieces of bread into the air.)
Fel: Take it, quick! Take all you need darlings! I love you!
(Sam follows, grabbing the bread bag from her.)
Sam: Give me that, you’re ruining everything! It’s not good for fish to eat bread anyway, it’s bad for their diet!
Fel: What do they eat then?
Sam: Fish! Or worms! Just not bread, you twit!
Fel: (Seeing the master’s bucket of worms) There’s some! (Grabs their worms and flings them into the water, quoting desperately) “Feed my sheep! Feed my sheep!”
Mastr: (Standing up, the fans following) Hey! What do you think you’re doing?
Fans: Yeah! What are you doing? / What's going on? / What's the big idea?
(Felicity has become overwhelmed with adrenalin and is lying on the water’s edge, gazing into the water, mumbling and singing to herself; and taking no notice of anyone else around her.)
Sam: Sorry about that. We’ve got a few mixed nuts around here. (Goes back to organizing his lure.)
Mastr: It’s a fortunate occurrence that we happen to be only practising. Carry on, pupils. (They return to their spot and continue fishing.)
(Arnie enters with a very bizarre and brightly coloured fishing rod contraption.)
Arn: (To Sam) Yo dude, whassup? What’s the cheese, Louise?
Sam: (Unsure) ..It’s Sam. Hi. (Tries to continue with his lure. Arnie pays no attention and continues talking)
Arn: Aloha Sam, I’m Todd, but call me Arnie. You fishing for souls dude?
Sam: Trying to. Haven’t quite got to choosing the right lure yet. Too busy preventing water contamination by bread and other carbohydrates. And now it’s full of worms.
Arn: Whoa.. heavy dude. Well, I’m ready to roll, or as they say, ready to reel!
Sam: I can see that. (Pointing to the rod) What do you call this unique contraption?
Arnie: So like, this is my totally bodacious home-made invention dude, I’ve called it the “Zion J-7000”. Gnarly name huh? It gives me shivers down my spine when I say the name: (demonstrating with shivers) “Zion J-7000!” – ooh! Now you, dude!
Sam: (Speechless, eventually saying the word plainly) Zion J-7000.
Arnie: (Shivers) Oooh! Far out dude! Ha ha! You call that a rod? Now this is a rod!
Sam: Listen, Arnie.
Arnie: Call me Steve!
Sam: (Bewildered) …OK.. Steve. Listen, that thing is just not going to work in here. And you can take it from me. I’ve been doing this for over five years. That qualifies me to know that these fish prefer traditional rods with traditional lures.
Arnie: Nah that’s cool, Sam-dude, I was just getting the juice from the moose. I’m casting this baby out on the other side. You know, Jesus-style. He was such a tripper. Later, dude! (Exits)
(Matt and Josh are still trying to settle somewhere.)
Matt: (To Sam, about Arnie) Where did he go?
Sam: I don’t know, somewhere over the other side.
Matt: Oh! Josh I’m going to check it out, you stay here. (Exits)
Josh: But… (Unheard) What am I supposed to do?
Sam: Don’t worry about it, he won’t be long. There is no ‘other side’.
Josh: Oh. (Sits and waits for Matt)
(Pete enters hurriedly with a large net.)
Pete: The tide’s in, the weather’s fine, it’s time to haul-in big time!
Sam: Excuse me Pete, what do you think you’re doing?
Pete: What does it look like mate? I’ve got a net and I’m not afraid to use it. This beauty can handle up to one hundred kilograms of fish. So I brought two.
Sam: I think you’ll find that won’t work. Plus it’s not about overall weight, it’s about their individual size. Lures are the classic method in these waters.
Pete: That’s if you want to waste your whole day catching one at a time. Personally don’t have time for inefficiency. If you’re in the soul-fishing business, it’s all about quantity not individuality. Step aside please, I’m in a hurry! (He casts the net out wide, watching it settle.)
Sam: (Watching, then thinking a moment.) So how do you know when you’ve caught some?
Pete: I don’t. I just have to wait.
(Sam scoffs and continues to choose a lure. Sarah enters with a hand reel.)
Sarah: Howdy everyone! How is everybody! (Hugs everyone cheerfully) I’m Sarah, how are you? Great to see you! Hello, precious!
Sam: Hi, Sarah.
Pete: I don’t think there will be many fish left for you, Sarah, I’m afraid. Not after I’ve cleaned up.
Sarah: That’s OK, I personally don’t think those nets work properly anyway. I believe in the personal touch. (Unravelling line from reel) After all, I’m not fishing for souls. I’m fishing for one soul. One precious soul. That’s what they are to God anyway. Every soul is precious.
Sam: (Preparing his lure and comparing equipment) Ha! Hand reels are as good as useless! Good luck with that, sweetheart!
Sarah: Excuse me! You don’t need bells and whistles. You just need an intimate experience.
Sam: Intimate experience! Whatever you say! Let the best fisher win! (Casts his line into the water.)
(Sam, Master, Pete and Sarah wait quietly for a nibble, with Josh and Felicity watching on. All of a sudden Master shouts out in surprise.)
Mastr Hey! I got a bite! (Starting to tackle a fish on the line.)
Fans: Hooray, master!
Josh: How could you, you’ve only got a cork!
Mastr: The Lord works in mysterious ways, my pupils. Watch and learn!
Sam: (Feeling a bite on his line) Ooh! I’ve got one too! Must be a huge brim or garfish! Might even be a salmon! (To self) Be the salmon! (Makes a fish face)
Sarah: (Getting a bite) Me too! Ooh! Welcome precious soul, welcome!
Pete: Wow, there must be millions of schools down there! I’d better haul in the net before it breaks! You know what it was like in Jesus’ day! (He starts to haul in, with the others getting more and more excited about reeling in a great catch.) Today is the day of salvation!
Josh: (Calling out to Matt, who is offstage) Matt! Come back! Hurry!
Sarah: It’s getting heavy – oh boy, this must be a beauty!
Fan#2: (returning with hooks) I’ve got some new hooks master, look.. (Noticing the impending catch and running over) Wow, what do you think you’ve caught, master?
Mastr: (Starting to struggle) By the strong fight she is putting up I am inclined to believe she’s a gummy shark.
Fan#2: Wow a gummy shark! There’s a picture of a gummy somewhere in the handbook isn’t there?.. (Opens book)
Mastr: (Struggling even more) Yes, yes, page eighty-one. Lend me a hand with the rod, would you, pupils?
Fan#1: (Watching and taking notes in book) Oh no master, we couldn’t! You know best! It’d be more beneficial for us to observe you.
Fan#3: Yes and then you can write another chapter all about the experience. And we will read it and even quote it when the opportunities arise. Oh I’m so excited, master!
Sam: (Reeling in madly) That’s a rainbow trout I reckon! I can just feel it! Come to papa! (To self) Be the trout, Sam, be the trout! (Makes a bigger fish face)
Fel: Don’t hurt the poor things! Reel in nicely!
Sarah: Oh it’s giving a mean fight! I hope my line doesn’t break..
Josh: Matt! Quick!
Mastr: I can’t hold on much longer! Pupils put down your handbooks for a moment… (They scribble in their handbooks)
Sam: Another triple header probably! Another heyday revival, hallelujah! Like the latter-day rain and the jubilee awakening!
Pete: (Hauling in) It certainly feels like a big haul… my most economical day yet. Here she comes…
(As Pete hauls in the net the other lines start to pull toward it.)
Sarah: Hey, get your net out the way of my line!
Sam: Yeah my triple header is going to get caught. Let your net go, will you!
Pete: No way! This is the haul of the century!
(Matt re-enters, hearing the commotion.)
Matt: What’s going on?
Josh: They’re all catching, Matt! Quick, let’s throw a line in!
Matt: OK, you go that end and I’ll go the other end! (They do so, casting their lines out respectively.)
Sam: (To Matt) Oh, grab one of my lures if you want. I mean, I’ve caught something really big .. as usual. Just saying.
Mastr: (Struggling and out of breath) Lend me a hand, pupils! I beg you! (They scribble madly in their handbooks)
Josh: Got one! Wooooo! (Reeling in)
Matt: I knew your side would be the best, beginner’s luck! … Wait… (feeling a bite) Bingo! Yes! (Reeling in) My side will have the bigger fish I know it.
Fan#2: Go master! The pliers and bucket are poised and ready!
(They all haul in at the same time, realising that none of them have fish; rather they are all tangled up in each other’s lines.)
Pete: What a minute… this isn’t the haul of the century!..
Matt: That’s not a fish… my line is caught in your net!
Josh: Me too! Ah get it off!
Sarah: My precious fish slipped off and now I’m caught in your net, Pete!
Fel: The poor fish was never there in the first place. And now it’s lost forever.
Matt: Stop pulling it in, my line will get tangled even worse!
Pete: What am I supposed to do, leave it out there and let you catch all the souls? I don’t think so.
Sam: Hey, now I’m caught too! I told you to get your net out of here you buffoon!
Pete: Hey who are you calling buffoon?
Sam: Don’t fight! Hey, don’t fight! Be nice!
(They all begin to fight; Josh, Felicity and the Fans getting involved in the argument, pushing each other out of the way and creating more of a mess. Without them realising, a man enters wearing a wet suit and flippers, carrying a spear gun and snorkel mask. They all stop at the same time and watch as the man quietly dons the mask and dives in to the water.)
© Kerrie Polkinghorne 2012, all rights reserved.,