Here is a little of what the great actress Sarah Bernhardt had to say about an American National Theatre in 1905:
Shakespeare and the Goethe, the Garricks, the Talmas and the Salvinis are not dependent upon a national theatre for recognition. Genius needs not adventitious aids. It makes its own opportunity. But between genius and and talent there is a great gap. Talent, when it is mere talent, must have its opportunity made by the far sighted or made by chance. And it is therefore talent, not genius, which a
national theatre will foster.
Leonard Jacobs throws out the idea that the Regional Theatres have become our National Theatre. This is probably true.
You can join the discussion at Leonard's site.
By the way, if you follow the link for the Bernhardt quote you will get a really fun PDF page from the New York Times 1905, including a little item on the stir Clyde Fitch created by putting the word fudge into one of his plays.