The first magic trick Alex Ramon remembers seeing was a simple sleight-of-hand act at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton when he was 7. There was elegance in the purity of the trick, making a card turn blue then change its face.
Ramon, now 30, has traveled the globe as a magician for Disney and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, spending his career working up from simple tricks to elaborate ones: He's made elephants disappear, levitated Whoopi Goldberg and sawed people in half.
While many of his other shows are about large-scale spectacle and energy, he plans to return to his roots by hosting a show about one-on-one magic at the Firehouse Arts Center next week.
His "Wonders" show will weave stories of classic magicians into a presentation of their famous tricks so the audience can experience history up close. The intimate Firehouse theater will allow Ramon to get every attendee involved in the show, and each guest will be given a packet of interactive items upon entering the center.
"I'm calling people on stage to sit at the table with me and do magic with me," he said.
His show will include acts by Harry Houdini, but he'll also delve into the lives and tricks of little-known founders of modern magic, such as Tony Slydini, an important figure for the world of close-up magic; John Scarne, an expert at manipulating playing cards; and David Devant, an English stage illusionist.
"There are a lot of amazing stories in the world of magic that no one's ever heard of," Ramon said.
He said these classic tricks get to the heart of the wonder of magic and will give the audience a close-up, unique experience, rather than being lost in a crowd in a giant show.
Ramon, a Richmond resident, started practicing magic at 13 and was hired as a magician for Disney when he was 20. He traveled the world, visiting Japan, South Korea, Thailand, India and many other countries, and left after three years to join Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
For two years, he was ringmaster at a time when the circus was doing a magic-themed show, "Zing Zang Zoom," and he spent his time as the circus' second-youngest ringmaster ever, making men turn into tigers and making elephants disappear into thin air.
"It really was, at that time, the largest magic show in the world," he said.
When that show ended, he said, he produced his own touring show for a year and then began working as the lead performer for "Illusion Fusion," a show at Horizon Resort Casino in South Lake Tahoe.
That show ended about a year ago, and he's kept busy working cruise ship shows while devising "Wonders," which he describes as his pet project into a completely new way of experiencing magic.
Since he began his career doing close-up magic, he felt a connection to that performance style. While he enjoys performing for tens of thousands of people, there's a special kind of joy in seeing the astonishment on one person's face when you do a trick face-to-face.
He said he hopes this show will allow Pleasanton to experience a bit of that amazement.
"Wonder is the goal of magic," he said.
His show will take place at the Firehouse Arts Center, 4444 Railroad Ave., on Oct. 16-17 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $19-$32 and can be purchased from the box office or from www.firehousearts.org.