Located on the banks of the Charles River next to the Weeks Footbridge, Dunster House is distinguished by its gold and crimson dome, which was modeled after the tower of Christ Church at Oxford. Famous Dunster residents have included former Vice President Al Gore and actor Tommy Lee Jones, who were roommates in the late 1960s, as well as comedian and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, novelist Norman Mailer, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Like other Harvard Houses, this one has its traditions, the major being the Dunster House Opera, the “Messiah” sing-a-long at Christmas, and a goat roast in the spring.
The opera epitomizes the inclusive, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-pitch-in spirit of the House. It utilizes only undergraduates for its cast, staff, and orchestra. This means that everyone shares multiple roles, with singers assembling sets shortly before they go onstage to deliver their arias. For many members of the cast, it is their first experience with opera. Performances take place in the Dunster dining room, which each night is quickly transformed from a sea of tables and chairs to a stage. This season’s performance was the operetta “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss II.
The camaraderie built on the set by producers, singers, and stagehands working side by side extends through the House. Diana Suen ’11 summed that up nicely: “Since my first day at Dunster, when I was smothered with hugs from our House mascot, I have never felt for want of a friendly face. There is nothing that compares to the bonds formed over intense IM games, late nights in the dining hall slaving over problem sets with friends, ice cream study breaks hosted by the Masters and resident tutors, and, yes, even the sometimes-too-cozy intimacy of walk-through rooms. Dunster truly feels like my home away from home.”