Fringe 2009 – FFA 2 – The William Williams Effect


“Don’t forget your promise.”

Balance Theatre Project

The William Williams Effect

The true story of the last man executed by the state of Minnesota features an illicit love affair, a violent murder and a botched hanging.

It’s a story with resounding impact, that almost wasn’t told, because the press was barred from publishing details of executions or witnessing them. But they found a way in, and told the people what they saw.

The William Williams Effect is about love and passion, obsession and crime, and the impact one man brought to a family, a community and our state.

The original script is culled from actual trial transcripts, historic newspaper articles, and Williams’ personal letters to “his best friend and partner,” Johnnie Keller.

Speaking of enormously depressing…

This whole thing is top-notch across the board. It was the one and only show that a Fringe staffer brought up to me in conversation in which they mentioned they had real interest. (And this was someone inundated with details of all the shows. To rise above the crowd and get on their radar takes some real effort.)

The show’s video trailer (at the end of this post) is pretty cool.

Just the people in the cast I know from past work I’ve seen, in and out of the Fringe – Shannon Troy Jones, Jean Salo, Edwin Strout, Wade A. Vaughn – are a dream for any playwrights developing a new script for first production.

And the whole thing pivots around the murder case which in the end helped put a stop to capital punishment in Minnesota. This was the last person executed in the state.

There’s even a homosexual love affair in the middle of it.

My homo-loving, bleeding heart liberal self should be first in line to see this, right?

Should be. Probably will be.

But part of me is resisting seeing yet another doomed gay love affair that ends in murder.

Oh, and the younger man in the couple is jailbait (of course – aren’t they always?). 16.

Now, this was 1905, mind you. And the older guy is only 27. So it’s not like there’s a chasm of time separating them. But there is a decade. Can anyone really blame the kid’s parents for being a little worried and stepping in, particularly when their son keeps running off with the guy? Considering how unstable Mr. Williams turned out to be, no, you can’t blame ’em.

Is it right that the whole homosexual element of the story essentially doomed Williams to hanging? No.

Is it the very least you should be able to expect at your own hanging that the rope should be the right length – you know, so your feet don’t touch the ground and your neck snaps quickly, rather than a bunch of deputies have to hoist you back in the air and let you swing there for 15 minutes until you’re well and truly dead? Yeah, that’d be the least you should expect. Efficient inhumanity.

So. Will I be going? If only to see how they took all these great artists have crafted a story out of all this unfortunate circumstance? Probably.

You need a little meat in your Fringe diet sometimes. This would be pretty meaty.

The Fringe’s YouTube page has their preview video clip and I’ve attached it to the end of the post, so give it a look and decide if it’s the meat for your Fringe diet as well. Some other online resources…

Their website –

Their show page

Their really cool video trailer…

The Fringe-For-All preview…