Meet the voice behind Iftah Ya Simsim’s Shams

Get to know Emirati puppeteer Asma Al Shamsi, who plays Shams on Iftah Ya Simsim, as she reveals how she came to work with the Muppets and what her job entails.

Asma Al Shamsi with Shams. Courtesy twofour54
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Emirati puppeteer Asma Al Shamsi, who plays Shams, reveals how she came to work with the Muppets and what her job entails.

“I was formerly a drama teacher for children up to the age of 5 at Zayed Higher ­Organisation for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs.

“I have never seen a show like this in the Gulf and to be part of that is a gratifying and an amazing experience. Also, I am always drawn to anything educational with children. At the centre I used to do small performances with puppets. The shows had a positive message about living with special needs as well, for the community to support those who do.

“I learnt about the opportunity to join the programme in March 2014 through social media. I sent them an email and they got back with an invitation to the auditions in Abu Dhabi.

“The auditions were really interesting. I’d never seen one on such a huge scale. You are talking about not only people from the Gulf coming in, but people from all over the Arab world.

“It went on for about 20 days and nearly every day, people would be cut until there were only six of us left.

“When they gave me the role, they told me that you are playing the role of Shams. They already had it planned for me.

“Shams is a new character. She is very merry and loves life. She is very quick and her best friend is Nu’man.

“She loves Amal, who works in the library, and she always goes to see her and listen to stories and learn about the world. I do share some similarities with Shams in that I also move quickly and I can be a fast talker.

“Because Shams is a quick person, she teaches the kids the importance of moving around and getting off that iPad, PlayStation and television. She encourages the kids to get up and play.

“Shams is also very curious and always asks Amal questions. That should encourage the kids to do the same.

“From April to June, we trained regularly on how to use the puppets. It’s a different technique when you are working for television as you are concentrating on how to use the puppet and looking at the monitor.

“I am also learning how to vocalise Shams, to sync up my dialogue with the movements of Shams’s mouth.

“It is very challenging as you are learning how to find the right expression for the puppet, and coming up with the right voice for that.

“We tried different voices throughout the practice. Then I came up with the current voice for Shams and we agreed this could fit and we began working on it till we got it right.”