Jenn Robbins and Matt Brannan


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  • Written by
    Darren Elms

For nearly two decades, two Palos Verdes residents have shared many passions and two in particular: the theatre and each other. Jenn Robbins and Matt Brannan met as theatre arts students at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in the ‘90s. After appearing in a handful of productions, the two went from acting partners to couple, marrying a few years later. While raising three beautiful children, the duo has directed, written and appeared in a variety of shows—the most recent a play called The Smoking Boy. 

“I inherited a journal from 1917 written by my great-grandmother,” shares Jenn. “Her entries intrigued me because she rarely shared her feelings, and she made only one vague reference to WWI. I felt inspired to find out more about that year and the war itself and to create a story about a mother living during that time and what she may be feeling and struggling with.”

A family drama set in 1917 New England, The Smoking Boy reveals the complexity of family relationships, especially between mother and son, as the teenage boy prepares to enlist. What started as a 10-minute play has evolved into a full-length production with a cast of six, recently recorded as an audio play on tape and produced as a staged reading through The Patricia Rae and Donald Freed Foundation. Now the play will get an international debut in August at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a gathering of theatre professionals and new plays and productions from across the globe. 

“Diane Benedict, our director who has produced multiple shows abroad, read the play and thought it would be a timely piece that would really appeal to an international audience,” says Jenn. After Diane obtained a grant from LMU, everything just sort of fell into place.”

Soon the cast, which includes Jenn, Matt and thier eldest daughter, Covi, will travel to Scotland with a small crew and family.  Break a leg!

"It is a coming-of-age story of the children and of the family—the world, really … innocence lost as the world contends with ‘the war to end all wars."