The­atre stu­dents rehearse ahead of the opening of “Radium Girls,” which starts this week at North­eastern. Photo by Gustav Hoi­land.

In the 1920s, a new, lumi­nous ele­ment used in every­thing from makeup to med­ical treat­ments caught the world’s atten­tion.

“It was in every­thing because it was this new mir­acle cure,” said Wanda Strukus, a lec­turer in Northeastern’s the­atre depart­ment in the Col­lege of Arts, Media and Design. “There was no sci­en­tific proof it did any­thing for you, but the world went wild with radium.”

In one fac­tory, young girls applied radium-​​based paint to the hands and faces of wrist­watches. To accom­plish such a pre­cise task, the fac­tory girls would lick the tips of their paint­brushes to achieve a per­fect point.

“They were eating radium paint without knowing the dan­gers it posed,” said Strukus, director of an upcoming stu­dent pro­duc­tion of “Radium Girls,” which opens on Thursday at Northeastern’s Studio The­atre.

At the same time, top sci­en­tists and com­pany man­agers did all they could to avoid con­tact with radium. That dis­parity sparked one of the nation’s first court ver­dicts estab­lishing occu­pa­tional health and work­place safety laws.

The events of the play, set in 1927, mirror the modern-​​day world, when issues involving working con­di­tions in the Chi­nese plants that make Apple prod­ucts dom­i­nate the head­lines.

“By doing this play today, we’re sug­gesting we still think it’s rel­e­vant,” Strukus said.

A panel dis­cus­sion with health, law and jour­nalism fac­ulty addressing issues raised by the play — including legal, media and public health his­tory in the United States — will be held fol­lowing the Feb. 12 per­for­mance of “Radium Girls,” a 2 p.m. matinee.

The first stu­dent play of the spring semester is per­formed in what the­atre fac­ulty refer to as the “fast and furious” show, with just over a month to pre­pare for the per­for­mance.

“We like to do this because it gives our stu­dents more of a sense of the real world, when you don’t have as much time to put on a show,” Strukus said. “They have three days, not three weeks, to learn their lines.”

Many of the actors and actresses also play mul­tiple roles, a the­atrical device that leads audi­ence mem­bers to draw com­par­isons between seem­ingly dif­ferent roles.

“When you have the same actor playing the uneth­ical lawyer [and] an eth­ical sci­en­tist, you start to see that there are con­nec­tions between people, that these people are not just one thing or another,” Strukus said. “It’s a very fine line, maybe, that two people can have the same inten­tions, but one will use it for evil while the other for good.”

“Radium Girls” will be per­formed at 8 p.m. on Feb. 9 – 11 and Feb. 14 – 16 and at 2 p.m. on Feb. 12. Tickets are $12 for Tuesday and Wednesday’s per­for­mances and $15 on Thursday, Friday, Sat­urday and Sunday’s per­for­mance. Tickets are avail­able at the Ell Hall box office or at neu​.uni​ver​si​tyt​ickets​.com.