Low Expectations

Music Direction by DANIEL PEARCE

Tuesday, August 15 @ 7pm

Saturday, August 19 @ 12 noon

Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto

In 2009, television and film actor and Bay Area native Michael Gaston started to question why he had such low expectations. A master storyteller inspired by Spalding Gray, Gaston set out to piece together the story of his family from Belfast to America during the Great Depression. He takes us on a wild ride as he reconnects with his past and raises his expectations for what is possible with the healing power of empathy, kindness, and love.


Tuesday, August 15 following the reading of Low Expectations

Join Julie Hébert and Michael Gaston for an inside look into how AI is impacting the entertainment industry. Both Julie and Michael have extensive experience in television, film, and theatre and are currently on strike. Michael Rau will be facilitating this conversation which is guaranteed to be informative and lively.


Julie Hébert is an award-winning writer/director of television, film, and theatre. Most recently she directed multiple episodes of the Fox hit drama ACCUSED, starring Whitney Cummings and Keith Carradine. She has written and served as Executive Producer and co-EP on series like MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, BOSS, THE GOOD WIFE and the recent Netflix hit ECHOES. She was EP and showrunner on John Ridley’s AMERICAN CRIME for which she was nominated for the EMMY and WGA Awards. Julie wrote the screenplays for RUBY’S BUCKET OF BLOOD starring Angela Bassett, and FEMALE PERVERSIONS starring Tilda Swinton, nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Michael Rau (Moderator) is a live performance director specializing in new plays, opera, and digital media projects. He has directed projects internationally in Germany, the UK, Brazil, Ireland, Denmark, Mexico, Canada, Australia and the Czech Republic. He has created work in New York City at Lincoln Center, The Public Theater, Ars Nova, and The Bushwick Starr.  Regionally, his work has been seen the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, and the Humana Festival at Actors Theater of Louisville. His work with composer Kate Soper has been performed at the Seattle Symphony, and The New York Festival of Song at the Dimenna Center. He has developed new plays at the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Playwrights Realm and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. His production of “temping” was selected by the Guardian and the Telegraph as one of the best productions of the 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He is a recipient of a 2021 Artists + Machine Intelligence Research Award from Google, as well as fellowships from the Academy for Theater and Digitality in Dortmund, Germany.  He has been an assistant director for Francesca Zambello, John Turturro, Robert Woodruff and associate director for Anne Bogart, Les Waters, and Ivo Van Hove. At Stanford, he is an affiliate faculty member with the Stanford Institute for Human Centered Artificial Intelligence, and a professor of directing in the Theater and Performance Studies Department where he serves as the head for the Theater-Making Concentration as well as the Artistic Director for the department.

The Motion was originally a Manhattan Theatre Club Sloan Commission.

Creative Team


MICHAEL GASTON (he/him) Theatre: Broadway: Lucky Guy, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg; regional and Off-broadway: Coal Country (New York Shakespeare Festival), I Was Most Alive With You (Playwrights Horizons), Somewhere in the Pacific, Taming of the Shrew, Othello, Henry V, Cripple of Inishmaan, all at the public theatre. Film: A Mouthful of Air, Spenser Confidential, Togo, The Land of Steady Habits, First Reformed, Bridge of Spies, Big Miracle, W, Inception, Body of Lies, Sugar, Double Jeopardy, Hackers, High Crimes, Stay, The Notorious Betty Page, Far From Heaven, Copland, Thirteen Days, The Crucible, The Wedding Banquet. TV: Five Days at Memorial, Fleishman is in Trouble, Mayor of Kingstown, Chicago PD, series regular on The Man in the High Castle, The Leftovers, Unforgettable, Jericho, Blind Justice. Recurring roles on The Good Lord Bird, The Expecting, For Life, Blindspot, Power, Strange Angel, Jack Ryan, Madam Secretary, The Good Wife, Murder in the First, Turn, The Mentalist, Terriers, Rubicon, 24, Damages, Fringe, Prison Break.


GIOVANNA SARDELLI (Director) is TheatreWorks’ Artistic Associate and Director of New Works. TheatreWorks mainstage directing credits include A Distinct Society, Nan and the Lower Body, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, They Promised Her the Moon, Archduke, Crimes of the Heart, The North Pool, and Somewhere. She previously directed A Distinct Society at both TheatreWorks’ New Works Festival and at Pioneer Theatre Co. Other directing credits include Describe the Night (Obie Award Best New Play, TW NWF 2014) at Atlantic Theater Co., the World Premiere of Archduke (TW NWF 2016) at Mark Taper Forum, and An Entomologist’s Love Story (TW NWF 2014) at San Francisco Playhouse. She has directed and developed plays around the country.


DANIEL PEARCE (Composer) is an enrolled Citizen Band Potawatomi actor, musician and visual artist based in New York City. Broadway: Machinal, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Most recently he played Polonius for the Public Theater in this summer’s Hamlet in Central Park directed by Kenny Leon. Other Public productions include: Mother of the Maid, Macbeth, Hamlet, Henry V, Measure for Measure, King Lear, Henry VI, Ping Pong, and Loves’ Fire. Other Off Broadway: Timon of Athens (TFANA), The Most Deserving (Women’s Project), The Picture of Dorian Gray (Irish Rep). Regional: Blood and Gifts (La Jolla Playhouse), As You Like It (Denver Center). Film: The Last Thing Mary Saw, Salt, Invisible Sign. Television: The Good Fight, Bull, Chappelle’s Show, Queen’s Supreme, and all the Law & Orders. Lunt-Fontanne Fellow.

CHRIS WATERS, Stage Manager

CHRIS WATERS (Stage Manager, he/him) has been a stage manager and event producer for over 15 years. He has worked locally at American Conservatory Theater, Aurora Theater Company, Berkeley Repertory Theater, California Shakespeare Theater, Curran Theatre, and more. He is delighted to be back at the TheatreWorks New Works Festival and hopes it feeds your soul!



Lucie Stern Theatre