04/28/1980 at 01:00 AM EDT
While last week's Oscar ceremony was still in progress, a woman reporter walked into a backstage lavatory stall and was astonished to find a familiar statuette sitting on the floor. "Hey, someone left an Oscar in here," she called out. A shriek came from the powder room. "Oh my God," wailed Meryl Streep. "How could I have done that? It shows how nervous I really am."
In truth, she had little to be nervous about. Just as it was Streep's night for triumph, so has it been her year. At 30 she has proved to be one of the brightest female stars of her generation—and one of the most serious. Next winter she is scheduled to play Joseph Papp's Public Theater in New York. She brought Papp the notion of starting a heavyweight ensemble company and has since helped him sign up Al Pacino, Jon Voight, Jill Clayburgh and fellow Kramer vs. Kramer winner Dustin Hoffman. "She hopes to do comedy because she likes to have fun on the stage," says Papp. Before that she will make a film that should dissuade those who still typecast her as a porcelain figurine: the lusty title role in John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman.