Interview: Jessica Hansen: Lean & Hungry


Podster Magazine Best Undiscovered Podcast Competition

Lean &

“A brand new podcast that breaks down the classics piece by piece.” Our judges loved the delightful, informative, accessible, and enlightening examination of Romeo and Juliet in Season 1. Here, we interview host Jessica Hansen. 

Podster: What is the premise of your podcast?

Jessica Hansen: Lean & Hungry examines classic works of literature, primarily Shakespeare, in a way that hasn’t been done before. Each season looks at a different classic work  (Romeo and Juliet was our first) and explores the question, “why does this still matter?” in a compelling and entertaining way. Over the course of each season we play the entire adapted version of the play, which features professional actors and an original soundscape. Then we bring in experts to help us understand what happened during key scenes of the play and also connect the major themes to a modern context.  

Podster: How do you go about selecting topics and guests?

Jessica: First we examine the play’s themes; the host and producers discuss and decide which play themes will best support the podcast’s mission to keep the play fun and accessible, while maintaining the artistic integrity of Lean & Hungry’s original adaptation of the play. Once we’ve decided the theme of the season, we articulate episode themes. Based on the episode and season themes, we brainstorm who would be the most fun, interesting, or elucidating guests for each episode. Then, we chase down the best guests!

Podster: What do you hope your listeners will take away from your podcast?

Jessica: Our goal is to make the classics relevant to people who might never think of tuning into Shakespeare to be entertained while also offering a new and different take to culture vultures. Ideally, listeners will not only have a laugh and learn something, but also be inspired to go see the play or read the book! If we leave listeners feeling like the story is more interesting than they’d thought, then we’ve done our job. 

Love + Radio: Nick van der Kolk and Brendan Baker’s wonderful and weird podcast has always been my stock answer for any podcast-related questions or guidance. How do you use sound design effectively? Listen to Love + Radio. How do you talk to an audience without pandering to them? Listen to Love + Radio. How do you do something weird on a podcast? Listen to Love + Radio. We had to find our own way of presenting a non-linear podcast and having Love + Radio to draw inspiration from was a huge help.

Homecoming: Good fictional podcast dramas are hard to come by, mostly because it’s really difficult to convince an audience to suspend their disbelief. What Gimlet’s excellent drama does well are the same things that I initially heard in Lean & Hungry Theater’s productions when I agreed to come on for the first season: atmosphere and natural acting.

Continue Reading.