American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

TEN NOVEMBER (first perf. 1987; pub. 1987). Inspired by the Gordon Lightfoot song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,”* playwrights Steven Dietz (1958- ) and Eric Bain Peltoniemi (1949- ) have dramatized the mysterious 10 November 1975 sinking of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald (1958) on Lake Superior through songs, stories, and Coast Guard reports. The play has several foci. First, the authors touch on the personal stories of the twenty-nine sailors aboard the Fitzgerald and their life on the sea. The bitter debates and interrogations surrounding the vessel’s sinking are examined. Theories, some humorous, are offered regarding the cause of the disaster. The specific events of the Fitzgerald on its final voyage are told in detail, as are the stories of family members of some of the perished sailors.

The real interest of the drama, however, is the destructive and majestic power of not only Lake Superior, dubbed “the graveyard of ships,” but of nature in a broader sense. The play examines the ways in which humans arrogantly attempt to control nature through technology and the futility that results. As one sailor in the play observes, “[W]hen the lake wants you, she takes you.” Lake Superior is presented as a living entity, relishing her infamous mythology, impossible to suppress, and capable of causing a grief that must be dealt with by mourners left ashore. [See also DRAMA OF THE SEA; GREAT LAKES LITERATURE]

Brian Knetl