“The next day, he came storming over to me (until then we’d been in love with each other) and said, ‘Don’t you ever talk to anyone about me!’ He apologized the next day. Later that summer, he took the smitten young actress to Thailand, but she came back after a couple of weeks.”
Gordon believes that Steppling has often been his own worst enemy. “I’m not sure I’m alone in that observation,” she says. “Steppling should have been heir to a major place in theatrical life. But he’s got this lifestyle, these obsessions that either distract him or prevent him from tapping into larger considerations. Naturally, we look at why people rise or fall, and here I think there’s something to do with his refusal to look at something about himself, some place where he’s stuck, and I don’t know what it is . . . I do know that he was [personally] spellbinding.
“Theater is its own master or mistress,” Gordon says, reflecting on why she still does it. “You get out of it what you put into it — the eternal verities, the attachments without which I would be truly disturbed and disordered. I learn through the theater what is important to me, and what is important at large.”
And was Padua a kind of West Coast Algonquin Circle?
“Sort of, but bigger,” Gordon explains. “And not half as adult.”