The emerging cold war was a key moment for the question of a national theatre for the United States. Anxieties were strong around how the country should fulfill its new role as world super-power, while a need for national institutions to represent the United States created the context for the first truly fruitful collaboration between the live performance communities and the federal government. One the most important sites for this work was the American National Theatre and Academy (ANTA) during the first fifteen years following the end of World War II. In that period, a small group of theatre professionals, who were also war veterans, worked to transform ANTA into a public foundation for the performing arts. To understand the role theatre’s leadership played in moving the US government from suppressing to supporting the arts, this article focuses on the strategies and tactics of its postwar leadership, looking at both ANTA’s history and one of ANTA’s key projects—the International Theatre Institute (ITI), founded in 1948 as a nongovernmental organization of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Practical issues of funding were central, and ANTA’s leaders and others pointed to funding as evidence of national values. The pursuit of federal recognition and funding as the surest path to a national theatre, however, permanently altered the movement for a national theatre. As the 1950s wore on, the call became less for an institution that could be designated as a national theatre, and more for the imprimatur of “national” that only the federal government could bring.